Everton Under-23s forward Anthony Gordon believes his growing maturity and tactical awareness have helped elevate his game to new heights over the past 12 months.
The 18-year-old has established himself in David Unsworth's Under-23s squad and signed a first professional contract with the Blues in March, penning a deal until the end of June 2023.
A skilful, direct attacker with an eye for goal, he has also been a regular in the England Under-18s set-up and amassed 10 caps at that level.
Gordon says Under-23s manager Unsworth – an uncompromising defender in his playing days who racked up 350 appearances for Everton – has helped him develop into a more rounded footballer.
“He’s testing me a lot,” said Gordon, who made his Everton senior debut aged 16 in the 3-0 Europa League victory at Apollon Limassol in December 2017.
“The defensive part of my game has come on leaps and bounds. The manager is so detailed and he’s helped me so much with that part of my game.
“He’s very honest with you, too. If he’s not happy with something, he’ll tell you but if you have a good game, he will give you your props.”
Gordon is currently being put through his paces by Unsworth and his coaching staff at a demanding pre-season training camp in La Manga, Spain.
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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH UNDER-23S IN LA MANGA
The youngster was part of the Under-23s’ team that won a Premier League 2 and Premier League Cup double last season. Gordon revealed how lifting the league title after a dramatic 1-0 win over nearest rivals Brighton & Hove Albion at Goodison Park represented one of the most special moments of his burgeoning career.
He emphasised how the hard yards the team puts in during pre-season provide a platform for such success.
“The sessions the manager has put on are testing us, mentally and physically,” said Gordon.
“Last year, you saw how many goals we scored late in matches – and how many games we won because of our fitness levels.
“Winning the league was an incredible feeling. It was rewarding for the team, for how hard we worked last season.
“It’s made us all hungry for more success.”