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 smooth sailing.
Gordon, from Highton, Merseyside, played for a number of local teams growing up, most notably Whiston Juniors.
Playing a few years ahead of his age group, he soon began to make a name for himself and attracted the attention of Liverpool, but was released.
It wasn’t long before Everton swooped in and brought him to the blue half of Merseyside.
“I was scouted by Liverpool from my Sunday League team,” Gordon told SPORTbible.
“I just started playing for different teams, playing as much as I could. 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 my age level – even in the academies I was always playing a year or two ahead. I think that’s helped me now playing against bigger players and stuff.”
Gordon calls it a “quick turnaround” since being scouted by Everton and signed at the age of 11.
While this setback hit him hard, he was able to get up and go again. Looking back now, he sees the whole experience as something that helped build his character.
“It was hard to deal with at the time, but I think it’s character building. At the time I was really disappointed but it helped me a lot as a kid to get into the Everton club and it still helps me to this day I think.
“I was probably a bit emotional and that hurt my confidence. My family was very important to me growing up, but I was pretty strong. I just kept playing and showing my skills. Then came Everton.
“Knocks are difficult for any young person, because you don’t know how to deal with them. The things that go against you when you’re young build your character when you’re an adult.”
Gordon has been rolling around with a ball since the age of three when he couldn’t even stand properly.
This love then led him to practice in his back garden, with his dad Keith making exercises for him.
“The front garden wasn’t very big, but we had like a Samba goal, and he put tires in the top corners.
“I would just stand there and pinch them all day and practice little things. I used to play all day and I loved it.
“He kept me playing football. It probably stopped me from doing other things. And when people would go out with friends and stuff, I’d just be there and put the ball in the tire.”
Eventually the training of those early days paid off for Gordon, who now has 74 appearances for Everton.
He made his debut in 2017 as a 16-year-old in a Europa League match against Apollon Limassol.
He was given his first Premier League start by Carlo Ancelotti against Liverpool in the Merseyside derby in June 2020 and a few months later he signed 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 remained committed to the cause at Everton, where he immediately rose through the ranks.
“I don’t know why but I always had an underlying confidence that I would play for Everton and play in the Premier League.
“I couldn’t tell you why because I had a lot of ups and downs. I always knew somehow.”
The reality is that Gordon is something of a rarity because there aren’t many points at the top level. In January 2022, the Premier League revealed that 97% of players coming from top academies do not 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 had this conversation with someone the other day. A lot of the players I played with through the youth system are not playing football now.
“There probably weren’t enough opportunities for them to take different paths in football or give second chances elsewhere. I think that’s definitely something we can work on as a football community.”
Gordon always enjoyed being involved in boxing despite going the football route. In Liverpool, it’s one or the other, he says.
“Pretty good” is how he would rate his skills 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 favorite fighters.
“I like smaller fighters where there’s more skill. Many people like heavyweights or entertainers.
“I never sought 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 it.”
Gordon, with his determination, has a boxer’s mentality. His speed on the pitch is as fearsome as Canelo Alvarez in the mitts, but the English under-21 star has had to work on his physique to cope with the demands of the men’s fight.
“I was very lucky because as a child I was quite small and thin. And then I had a growth spurt probably around 18 or 19 and suddenly I got a lot of pace.”
In FIFA 23, Gordon is one of the most improved players this year. His total has massively increased from 67 to 75.
However, he estimates that the 80-rate calculations need an increase.
“Shocking! 80 beat?” he gasped.
“I’ve seen a lot of players, who I won’t name, like 85 or 86 – and I think if we had a match I know I’d win big!
“Not our team, just other players around the world. This needs improvement.”
Anthony Gordon attended the McDonald’s Ultimate Gaming Event to celebrate the launch of the new McCrispy. The game-changing chicken burger is now permanently available from your nearest McDonald’s #McCrispy