Newcastle: Anthony Gordon turning doubters into believers

Comment on the photo, Gordon participated for the first time with the England national team in the friendly match that they lost 1-0 to Brazil at Wembley Stadium last March.

  • author, Harry Di Cosimo
  • Role, BBC Sport

It’s January 2023, and Newcastle United are looking to sign a striker to boost their bid to return to the Champions League after 20 years. The most prominent name in recruiting meetings is that of Anthony Gordon.

His £45 million move from Everton was met with a mixed reception. Questions have been raised about his behavior just months after a violent clash with his new team-mates at St James’ Park when he was still an Everton player.

These fears were exacerbated by the angry reaction after he was replaced by new coach Eddie Howe at Brentford, after a disappointing start to Newcastle’s life on the pitch, even as the Newcastle side finished fourth in the Premier League.

Now with 10 Premier League goals and 10 assists in his first full season on Tyneside – the first Newcastle player to achieve the feat since Roel Foxes in 1994-95 – Gordon has a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2024. Doubters about the youngster The 23-year-old is a believer now.

“He knew what he wanted and what he needed.”

It is this commitment to self-improvement that has been the driving force behind Gordon’s rise from skinny prodigy to promising England player. His versatility and ability to play anywhere up front has been a huge asset too.

Neil Dewsnip, now director of football at Plymouth Argyle, signed 11-year-old Gordon when he was Everton’s academy coach, before working closely with him as England Under-18s manager.

“Anthony was my last signing at Everton. He was a lad we looked at a few times, as did Liverpool. “He was a bit of a late developer, physically immature.

Another former Everton academy coach, who wished to remain anonymous, insists the club kept their nerve with Gordon, whose lack of intensity might have cost them had he emerged a few years earlier.

“We saw it had potential,” he says. “The academy did well to stick with him. It was about patience and keeping him in the system. In the past, players like Anthony would have fallen behind, but as he has gotten stronger, he has fallen into place.

“He was always very determined even back then. He knew what he wanted and what he needed.”

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Gordon made his home debut for Everton as an 18-year-old when he came on as a substitute against Leicester City in 2019.

“He has improved himself”

Gordon began his secondary school career at Alsop High School before moving to one of Everton’s partner schools, Wade Deacon in Widnes, when he was 14 years old. He was traveling there from his home in Kirkdale, Liverpool.

“We always thought he was going to be a big boy, and he is. We knew he was going to be fast, and he is fast. “It’s about looking at the boy and trying to see the guy on the road. All credit to Anthony, he has improved himself.”

Dewsnip’s encounter with England came as Gordon joined a brilliant group of youngsters to win the Limoges Championship in France in 2018.

“This team had Bukayo Saka, Mason Greenwood, James Garner, Curtis Jones and Folarin Balogun,” Deusnip adds. “He was part of a group full of exciting attacking talent.

“We had a bond together. He would come and talk to me over coffee. I coached his agent when he was younger and there was a link with Everton. Then I watched his progress from a distance. I watched him play for the Under-21s at Burnley. He was on the side One and Cole Palmer was on the other side and I thought: Oh my God, wow!

Gordon’s early days at Everton go some way to reflecting the recent change in fortunes at Newcastle. He has never been afraid to make his feelings known to staff, but has always understood how to turn a setback into a path forward following a six-month spell at Preston North End in 2021.

His former coach recalls: “I remember doing a finishing session with him once when he was 14. He didn’t look happy and when I talked to him he said: ‘I don’t need to, I can do it. I need a challenge. I need opposition. I thought, ‘Great, tell the coaches what he wants at his age.’

“I think the loan he had at Preston helped him a lot. He started well and then didn’t get what he wanted. He was in and out. He came back from that loan, worked over the summer and that was the motivation. He kicked. If you look at him now and you look at him when Breaking into the house for the first time, the difference is huge.”

In an interview last month with former Manchester United defender Gary Neville on The Overlap, Gordon spoke about dictating his development at Newcastle.

“I stay outside all the time [after training] “Because I feel like it’s over too quickly and I’m not ready to go in,” Gordon said.

“The worker knows I don’t like working in the gym. He knows I like to do what makes me feel good and this season I haven’t had any injury. It’s worked.”

“He has the talent that people are looking for so much.”

Dewsnip says Gordon’s quality has never been in doubt, but his development has brought consistency.

“He performed extremely well,” he says. “His ability to run with the ball was always evident. He can get you out of your own box when defending the opposition box with incredible speed. He’s also really talented in one-on-one situations.”

“The next three or four years could be very exciting for Anthony. He has the talent that people are looking for so much: he can score goals and create goals. When you get older and mature physically, you’re able to do those things more often. Maybe that’s what we’re starting to see.” “

Dewsnip has worked closely with Southgate and says there is no better man to look to impress than Gordon before the summer.

“Gareth and Steve (Holland, assistant manager) are very meticulous in their preparation. They will have seen all the top talent and left no stone unturned. The aim is to win the Euros. If Anthony is in that group, he will have deserved it.”

Whatever happens with England, Gordon looks like a player who can help push his club towards greater things, and his side will visit Manchester United on Wednesday in the race to another European finish.

Howe has certainly been pleased with the way his Tyneside signing has developed.

“I’m happy for him,” he said after Gordon’s first call-up to the England national team in March. “He’s worked hard. This is what he’s wanted since he was a little boy. He’s been fantastic and continues to grow week after week. He’s scored goals and made assists. He’s done a great job for the team.”

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