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How Kaide Gordon can follow Harvey Elliott shortcut into Liverpool first team

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There are a lot of similarities between Liverpool‘s two prodigious teenage forwards, and Harvey Elliott may have already laid the path for Kaide Gordon‘s breakthrough.

When Elliott made his debut for Fulham in their 3-1 victory over Millwall in the League Cup in 2018, he became the club’s youngest-ever player at 15 years and 174 days.

Gordon didn’t quite break ground in the way his eventual team-mate did, but there was a clamour around the youngster when he too made his first outing, coming off the bench for Derby in a 4-0 victory over Birmingham at the end of last year.

Just over two months after his 16th birthday, the youngster was given a big opportunity in the Championship – and according to his manager, Wayne Rooney, it wasn’t a token outing.

“I brought Kaide up with the first team initially to train with us for a week, to see how he reacted to it, and he was one of the best trainers,” Rooney explained afterwards.

“I kept him with us for a couple of weeks and he’s been training now at the same level, if not a better level, to a lot of the players.

Derby County's Kaide Gordon during the Sky Bet Championship match at St Andrews Trillion Trophy Stadium, Birmingham.

“I spoke to the players and said ‘if you’re training hard and you train well, I’ll give you your chance’, and he deserves it.”

A similar episode has played out for Gordon six months after his £3 million move to Liverpool, having been drafted into Jurgen Klopp‘s pre-season squad after an impressive start to life in the academy.

Gordon stood out against Wacker Innsbruck, Mainz and Hertha Berlin, and was rewarded as he kept his place in the group when the numbers were cut to accommodate senior players returning on the move from Austria to France.

Players considered closer to the first-team setup, namely Billy Koumetio, Conor Bradley and Jake Cain, were all instructed to return to Kirkby to rejoin the under-23s squad, but Gordon was among a four-strong youth cohort that made the journey to Evian.

 

A pre-season standout

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - Thursday, July 29, 2021: Liverpool's Kaide Gordon during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Hertha BSC at the Tivoli Stadion. Liverpool lost 4-3. (Pic by Jürgen Faichter/Propaganda)

There has been little fanfare over Gordon from within the club – he is yet to conduct an in-house interview during pre-season, unlike many of his academy peers – but the 16-year-old has certainly caught the eye.

His fearless attacking play on the right flank has allowed him to slot in seamlessly alongside the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi and Diogo Jota in Klopp’s three-man forward line.

While others may have shied away, the teenager has demanded the ball at every opportunity and looked to take defenders on and craft chances for his team-mates.

He has been a magnet for fouls, and has been unfortunate not to break his duck in front of goal in his 119 minutes on the pitch so far.

It would be easy to get carried away with these glimpses of quality, but Gordon has been kept under Klopp’s watch for a reason – and it would be no surprise if he is already being pencilled in for a senior breakthrough.

Not this season, perhaps – he is, after all, still a scholar, unable to sign a professional contract with the club until his 17th birthday in October – but sooner rather than later.

All being well, he could follow the same shortcut Elliott, a player only 18 months older, has taken into the senior setup.

 

The Elliott shortcut

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 25, 2019: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between MK Dons FC and Liverpool FC at Stadium MK. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Elliott arrived at Liverpool to great curiosity, having turned down the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Man City and Chelsea to join his boyhood club, but he was handled as carefully as possible in his first season.

There were still opportunities under Klopp, most notably when he won the Man of the Match award as the club’s youngest-ever starter in a 2-0 win at MK Dons in the League Cup and clocked seven minutes over two appearances in the Premier League.

But the bulk of his experience came training and travelling with the first team and playing in the academy, for whom he scored five goals and laid on 13 assists in 23 appearances.

The youngster was protected, but there was a clear pathway for him to progress, and this ultimately saw him flourish with a season with Blackburn in the Championship.

Forty-two games, seven goals and 11 assists later, and Elliott is firmly in Klopp’s plans for the campaign to come and being moulded into a bespoke role within the Liverpool midfield.

 

Gordon’s pathway

GRÖDIG, AUSTRIA - Friday, July 23, 2021: Liverpool's Kaide Gordon during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and FSV Mainz 05 at the Greisbergers Betten-Arena. (Pic by Jürgen Faichter/Propaganda)

Elliott is a generational prospect, signed for a bargain fee at £4.3 million despite a tribunal deeming him the most expensive 16-year-old in English history, but there are clear parallels between him and Gordon, who could be the next in line.

Having only made his debut for the U23s on the final day of last season – scoring in a 2-0 victory over Leicester – it would make sense for Gordon to emulate Elliott in training with the first team and playing academy football in his first full season with the club.

There could be sporadic outings in the League Cup, perhaps a place in the squad for the Champions League, while the EFL Trophy – which pits an under-21s side against senior opposition in Rochdale, Bolton and Port Vale – could be a useful proving ground.

If he makes the steps anticipated, a carefully curated loan could be the next move, with Derby academy director Darren Wassall already jokingly expressing a desire to bring Gordon back to Pride Park in an interview with Goal.

From there, the hope would be that he is capable of making inroads at senior level in 2023, by which point the established front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino would all be 31 and, unless they sign new deals, on the move.

 

The next generation?

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - Thursday, July 29, 2021: Liverpool's Kaide Gordon during the pre-match warm-up before a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Hertha BSC at the Tivoli Stadion. Liverpool lost 4-3. (Pic by Jürgen Faichter/Propaganda)

There has been a shift in emphasis during discussions over Liverpool‘s transfer strategy this summer, with there being an acceptance that Klopp’s existing squad cannot simply grow old together.

Regeneration is required, and outstanding teenagers such as Jude Bellingham, Eduardo Camavinga, Jeremy Doku, Ryan Gravenberch and Florian Wirtz will be prominent on the radar of the club’s recruitment staff.

But the groundwork is already being laid with the likes of Elliott, Curtis Jones, Leighton Clarkson, Ibrahima Konate and future captain Trent Alexander-Arnold, as a new core forms within the current group.

They are only flashes at this stage, but Gordon’s bright start in Klopp’s first team can hopefully lead to an eventual rise to starting status at Liverpool.


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