What were you doing at 16? Anything special? Because Kaide Gordon is already laying the groundwork for a promising future at one of European football’s heavyweight clubs.
At 16 years and 351 days, he became Liverpool’s fifth youngest player in Tuesday’s Carabao Cup win against Norwich – and this was no late token-gesture substitution either. He started, played 90 minutes and even had a crack at entering the history-books as the club’s youngest-ever scorer.
But that half-volley – where his technique unusually let him down inside the box – won’t be the reason the ex-Derby player can’t sleep. A giant hug from Jurgen Klopp at full-time, in front of the travelling fans, will be the overriding memory on an unforgettable night for the teenager.
Kaide Gordon earned a hug from Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp after an impressive debut at 16
The £1m teenager played all 90 minutes in the Reds’ comfortable victory against Norwich
He wasn’t the only one too. Klopp started 18-year-old right back Conor Bradley for his first-team debut and Tyler Morton was a composed half-time replacement for Naby Keita in the centre of midfield.
All three passed their test. While Bradley’s only moment of rashness – bringing down Dimitris Giannoulis in the box – could have cost Liverpool dear, he was reprieved by Caoimhin Kelleher’s save from the spot.
Yet it was Gordon who everyone had their immediate eye on. From the off the fleet-footed frontman, cutting in naturally on his stronger left-foot from the right, did not look out of place. In fact, he looked completely unnerved.
That though won’t be of any surprise to Liverpool’s coaching staff after Gordon emerged as one of their shining lights from July’s pre-season training camp in Austria and France.
‘Before pre-season we always make sure our biggest talents start a week earlier than we start,’ said Pep Lijnders, Liverpool’s assistant manager, before the Norwich clash.
Tyler Morton (L) also made his debut but it was Gordon whose name was in the spotlight
Conor Bradley was promising too despite giving away a penalty late in the first-half (above)
‘They start with the Under 23s so I went to the training ground to watch. I saw one player and he had fire in each moment he touched the ball. He passed players like they were not standing there.
‘I called Jurgen immediately and was like, ”Wow! We have a new player here!” He is a typical Liverpool winger because he has goals, he has speed. We really like him.’
Since then, he has been involved in first-team training – a dramatic rise since joining for £1million back in February, when the Reds rather satisfyingly beat Manchester United to his signature.
He made his first-team debut for Derby last December, a mere two months after turning 16. Liverpool’s head of senior academy recruitment Matt Newberry was quickly alerted to his potential and a deal was quickly signed.
Gordon seemed at home with his first touch and composure impressing on Tuesday night
The Rams – currently in dire financial straits having entered administration last week – have actually benefited from Gordon’s debut on Tuesday, with a £100,000 payment triggered following his first start.
And he undoubtedly seemed at home at Carrow Road, under the lights in senior football. Starting in an advanced role on the right-hand side of a front three, his first touch and composure was top-notch, roared on by the travelling contingent of fans next to him.
A shimmy and step-over inside, all too quick for Billy Gilmour, was an early glimpse of his talent, while a second-half central stride through Norwich’s midfield and a pinpoint through ball to Divock Origi showed he was capable off the flanks too.
He cut in naturally on his left foot and did not look out of place on his debut in East Anglia
He had a moment he will want back though. With roles reversed as the Belgian teed him up in the box, Gordon couldn’t lever his left-foot over the ball and spooned his half-volley over the bar.
That accolade of Liverpool’s youngest-ever goalscorer will remain with Ben Woodburn for the time being.
Nevertheless, the 16-year-old never shirked his responsibilities off the ball either, pressing intensely from start to finish. Bradley, playing behind him in tandem too, had a terrific engine up and down and his poke through to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain led to Liverpool’s third goal of the night from Takumi Minamino.
A word too for Morton, who has been at the club since the age of seven. The Kirkby-born midfielder looked calm on the ball and though the opposition on Tuesday night was not exactly the most intimidating, he was assured in his passing and decision-making.
Bradley worked well with Gordon on the right and never stopped running for 90 minutes
Morton, also 18, looked assured in central midfield as he came on at half-time for Naby Keita
Klopp, needless to say, was pleased but pragmatic with what he saw from his youngsters: ‘He [Gordon] is good. There are a lot of things to improve.
‘There are a lot of thing to settle and to learn but there is already a lot of things that are there. We will treat him carefully. I am really happy he is here, he is really big talent.’
On Bradley, he joked: ‘He is the first Northern Irish player [to play for Liverpool] since 1954! Someone should have told me that before and I probably would have brought him up earlier. But he had a super game.’
A night full of promise for the Liverpool boss. The trio have surely earned themselves a place in the squad for the last-16 tie at the end of October. And that’s no matter who the opposition may be.