When Everton were thrashed by five goals at Tottenham, Frank Lampard singled out the performance of Anthony Gordon as the only positive that he could take from the evening. The same might be said about Everton’s entire season.
In what has been a dismal time for the club, the homegrown 21-year-old winger has been the exception. It would be a surprise if he is not named Everton player of the year. If that reflects the difficulties of more experienced team-mates, it is also testament to him.
Away from Goodison Park, there was another reminder of his gifts while wearing an England shirt at the weekend – coming off the bench to measure his volley into the corner of the net against Andorra for the U21 side. His reputation in the game is growing.
Among his team-mates, there is little surprise.
“He has got a great attitude, a willingness to learn and a willingness to work,” Dominic Calvert-Lewin tells Sky Sports. “He is an honest, hard-working lad and he lives properly.”
Ben Godfrey says much the same. “He is quick and skilful,” he tells Sky Sports. “He is a great guy as well. He works hard every day and he has got a bright future. He has got everything.”
That work rate has been a factor in endearing him to supporters. He was clocked as the fastest player on the pitch last time out against Newcastle, made more sprints than anyone against Wolves prior to that and topped both metrics against Tottenham.
This enthusiasm can make a difference – as shown by the tackle that he put in against Brentford in the build-up to Everton’s third goal. Lampard called that one amazing.
As well as those physical statistics, Gordon ranks among Everton’s top three players for tackles attempted, shots attempted, dribbles and chances created. He is out there trying to make things happen for the team and they recognise that at Goodison Park.
There is that sense of the boyhood supporter living his dream – particularly when the cameras caught him mouthing along to Everton’s anthem with the crowd after the victory over Leeds. Roared on, he is able to play with freedom while others are not.
But there is more to Gordon than that. The belief might be bolstered by the fans singing his name but it also comes from within – there is no arrogance but plenty of confidence.
“He has that football confidence in his own ability that he should have because he is a great player and difficult to play against for full-backs,” says Godfrey.
“I think he believes in himself as well,” adds Calvert-Lewin.
“I see a lot of myself in him when I was his age. He is not overly confident, just confident in his ability and he knows what he can do.” But there is a key difference between the two players that Calvert-Lewin is magnanimous enough to acknowledge.
“When you get your chance, you just need to be a sponge and take in that experience because I probably played for two seasons and was not really happy with my performances.
“I was almost waiting for the penny to drop.”
With Gordon, the progress has felt quicker, although he did make his Everton debut as long ago as 2017 in a European tie in Cyprus. His full Premier League debut came in the Merseyside derby in June 2020. But a loan move to Preston last year helped his progress.
“That seems to have done him the world of good,” says Godfrey.
When Gordon returned for pre-season, he was ready to play twice a week in the toughest competition in football. Michael Keane is the only outfield player to have featured more times for Everton this season. Even at a young age, he is now showing consistency.
And he is doing it in a variety of different roles. Both goals against Brighton came after cutting inside from the right, but he has looked perhaps even more dangerous from the left. The first goal against Leeds was possible thanks to his flick from a central position.
A symbol of hope where elsewhere there is none?
In a team that have lost 15 of their last 20 games, that has become a stick with which to beat others. If Gordon can do it, why can’t they? The criticism is understandable but perhaps the reason for the disparity in performance will also become clearer in time.
Gordon is a special talent – and he is only just getting started.
“He has bags of ability so I think if he keeps his head down and keeps working hard, he has the world at his feet,” says Calvert-Lewin.
“I have no doubt that he will kick on again,” adds Godfrey.