Anthony Gordon knows what rejection feels like. These days the 21-year-old wears the No.10 for Everton in the Premier League but his journey hasn’t always been a smooth one.
Gordon, from Huyton in Merseyside, played for a number of local sides growing up, with Whiston Juniors his main one.
Playing a couple of years ahead of his age group, he soon started to make a name for himself and attracted the attention of Liverpool but was released.
It was not long after when Everton swooped in and brought him to the blue half of Merseyside.
“I got scouted from Liverpool from my Sunday League team,” Gordon told SPORTbible.
“I was just bouncing about playing for different teams, playing as much as I could really. And then they released me.
“An Everton scout came and watched me play. I went and then the rest is history.
“I think I was always a bit above the level of my age – even through the academies I was always playing one or two years up. I think that helped me now playing against bigger players and stuff.”
Gordon calls it a “quick turnaround” from his release to being scouted again by Everton and signing at the age of 11.
While that setback hit him hard, he was able to pick himself up and go again. Looking back now, he sees the whole experience as something that helped build his character.
Image: Alamy“It was tough to deal with at the time but I think it’s character building. At the time I was really disappointed but it massively helped me as a kid going into the Everton group and still helps me to this day I think.
“I was probably a bit emotional and it knocked my confidence. My family were really important for me growing up but I was quite strong-minded. I just continued to play and show my ability. Then Everton came.
“Knock-backs are difficult for any young person because you don’t really know how to deal with it. Them things that go against you when you’re young, build your character for when you’re an adult.”
Gordon was rolling about with a ball from the age of three when he couldn’t even stand up properly.
That infatuation then led to him practicing in his back garden, with his dad Keith setting up drills for him.
“The front garden wasn’t too big, but we used to have like a Samba goal, and he put tyres in the top corners.
“I’d just stand there and chip them in all day and practice little things. I used to just play all day, and I loved it.
“It kept me playing football. It kept me from doing other things, probably. And when people were going out with the friends and stuff, I was just there, chipping the ball into the tyre.”
Ultimately the practice in those early days paid off for Gordon, who now has 74 appearances under his belt for Everton.
His debut came back in 2017 as a 16-year-old in a Europa League game against Apollon Limassol.
Image: AlamyHis first Premier League start was handed to him by Carlo Ancelotti against Liverpool in the Merseyside derby in June 2020 and a few months later he penned a new five-year contract.
It was last season when he firmly established himself as a regular, making 40 appearances in all competitions for the Toffees.
There was strong interest from the likes of Chelsea in the summer but Gordon felt the love from Frank Lampard and has remained committed to the cause at Everton, where he’s risen right through the ranks.
“I don’t know why but I always had an underlying confidence that I would play for Everton and I would play in the Premier League.
“I couldn’t tell you why because I did have lot of knock-backs and ups and downs. I always knew somehow.”
The reality is that Gordon is something of a rarity because not many make the grade at the top level. In January 2022, the Premier League revealed 97% of players who come through elite academies never play a single minute of Premier League football.
Gordon has seen it himself and believes there is work to be done for those who don’t make it.
“I was having this discussion with someone the other day. A lot of the players I played with through the youth system, they now don’t play football.
“There probably wasn’t enough opportunities for them to go down different routes in football or given second opportunities elsewhere. I think that is definitely something we can work on as a football community.”
Image: McDonald’sGordon has always enjoyed taking part in boxing despite going down the football route. In Liverpool, it’s one or the other, he says.
“Quite good” is how he would assess his abilities and you can see his sharpness when he was on the pads with ‘The Beast’ Adebayo Akinfenwa.
Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko are two of his favourite fighters to watch.
“I like the smaller fighters where there’s more skill. A lot of people like the heavyweights or the entertainers.
“I never ever pursued it. I say I’m good, I’m not that good! I like the brain behind it because it takes so much skill and technique. It’s like a chess match so I really enjoy that.”
Gordon, with his dogged determination, has a boxer-type mentality. His speed on the pitch is as frightening as Canelo Alvarez on the mits but the England under 21 star has had to work on his physique to cope with the demands of the men’s game.
“I was quite lucky really because as a kid, I was quite small and slim. And then I had a growth spurt probably around 18 or 19 and all of a sudden I got a lot of pace.”
On FIFA 23, Gordon is one of the most improved players this year. His overall has increased massively from 67 to 75.
But still, he reckons that 80 pace reckons needs upping.
“Shocking! 80 pace?” he fumed.
“I’ve seen like loads of players, who I won’t name, like 85 or 86 – and I think if we had a race I know I would win by a lot!
“Not our squad, just other players around the world. That needs upping.”
Anthony Gordon was attending the McDonald’s Ultimate Gaming Event to celebrate the launch of the new McCrispy. The game-changing chicken burger is now available permanently from your nearest McDonald’s #McCrispy