Anthony Gordon’s unwavering self-belief and a steely determination to prove he can deliver at the highest level is underpinning his eye-catching form for Club and country.
That is the view of Everton Under-18s boss Paul Tait, who played an important role in Gordon’s development during the dynamic attacker’s time in the Blues’ Academy.
Gordon made his England Under-21s debut on Thursday and marked the occasion in stunning fashion, netting two goals within the first 11 minutes of the young Lions’ 3-1 victory over Czech Republic.
The forward received his maiden call-up having established himself in Everton’s First-Team picture during the opening months of the 2021/22 season, impressing with a series of mature and purposeful displays.
Gordon is in line to return to international action on Tuesday when England Under-21s take on Georgia in a friendly match (2pm GMT) – and Tait explained why the Toffees Academy graduate boasts the qualities to sustain his positive momentum.
“For Anthony to go and get a couple of goals on his Under-21 debut was fantastic,” Tait told evertonfc.com. “I’m delighted for him.
“He’s been getting a good bit of playing time in the First Team lately, so I’m sure he feels like he’s sharp and in form.
“He’s been given some good opportunities from the manager this season, and Rafa [Benitez] has obviously got confidence in him and gave him a pathway.
“He’s showing the potential we always thought he had. I think he’s started to mature as a person as well. He’s at that age now, at 20, where he’s starting to grow up, and I think he’s showing that in his performances.”
🎙️ "What a night he is having!"#EFC's Anthony Gordon is in dreamland on his first start for the #YoungLions 💫💫— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) November 11, 2021
📺 Live on Sky Sports Premier League pic.twitter.com/waKIroJmgA
Gordon, who joined Everton aged 11, enjoyed a prolific campaign under Tait’s tutelage during the 2017/18 season.
He hit 14 goals and provided four assists in just 15 league matches and his exceptional form was rewarded with an Everton First-Team debut in December 2017 – Gordon made his Toffees bow aged 16 years and 286 days in the Blues’ 3-0 Europa League victory at Apollon Limassol.
Tait revealed, however, how Gordon’s Academy journey was not all plain sailing – and explained how the 20-year-old’s mentality was key in overcoming significant hurdles.
“He always had potential, but he wasn’t always a high-flyer,” Tait added.
“He went through what a lot of the young boys do, when they have growth spurts and start growing into their body. That can affect you and sometimes you can lose a little bit of confidence. That’s something Anthony never lost.
“He always had belief in his own ability. We always felt, once he matured physically, we would have a player on our hands. He’s done that now.
“I believe he is one of the quickest at the Club over 10 and 30 metres, so physically he’s got all the attributes.
“And I always felt he had that Premier League quality in terms of his in-possession work – he can go past players and he can finish. He always stood out in that regard.”
Tait also paid tribute to the strength of character Gordon has shown following a challenging loan spell at Preston North End last season.
Gordon joined the Championship side on deadline day in the January transfer window and went on to make 11 appearances for the Lilywhites.
He saw his opportunities restricted, however, as Preston’s form suffered and with the manager who brought him to the club, Alex Neil, departing less than two months after Gordon’s arrival.
“Sometimes you need to go through those things to build that resilience as a young player,” Tait explained.
“Every loan is a good loan. Even if you don’t play a lot for whatever reason, that’s where you build that resilience.
“I think that’s given him that extra bit of fight and hunger to maybe prove a few people wrong and say, ‘Look, I am a good player and I deserve to play in the Premier League’.”
Gordon has featured in eight of Everton’s 11 top-flight matches so far this term and Tait revealed the collective pride throughout the Club’s Academy in his progress.
“It’s one of the best parts of the job when a young lad goes on and plays professional football and, even more so, when he plays in our First Team,” Tait said.
“That’s our number-one priority.
“Every time he pulls on that blue shirt, it makes me proud as well everybody in the Academy staff – everyone who has had a little part to play in his development.
“The challenge for him now is to try to hold down a place in the starting XI. Can he start adding assists and goals to his game? That will be his next challenge and he is absolutely capable of it.
“He’s got good people around him, a great family, and he just needs to stay humble like he is, keep working hard, and keep learning from the professionals he is working with every day.”
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