First interviewKaide Gordon on his week of firsts, making the step up and learning from Mohamed Salah
They were seven days that Kaide Gordon will never forget.
It began when a second first-team start yielded a first senior goal for the 17-year-old, who demonstrated a calmness and composure that defied his tender age to sweep in an equaliser during the 4-1 Emirates FA Cup win over Shrewsbury Town at Anfield. At the Kop end, no less.
A place among the substitutes was secured for the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final with Arsenal four days later, before he came off the bench to make a Premier League bow in Sunday’s victory against Brentford on home soil.
“It’s been crazy, the last week or so,” Gordon told Liverpoolfc.com during his first ever interview. “I didn’t really expect it all to come around so fast, but I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Watch Kaide Gordon's first interview in full
And why shouldn’t he enjoy it?
By netting against Shrewsbury he became the club’s second-youngest goalscorer of all time, only pipped to the outright milestone by a matter of 51 days by Ben Woodburn.
“I didn’t really know how to celebrate because it was to make it 1-1 in the game, so I was in two minds,” he admitted.
“I thought, ‘It’s my first goal but it’s [only] 1-1’ so I thought, ‘Just get back in’ but it was really good. After the game, everybody, my family, were really happy for me and I really enjoyed it.
“Everyone was there: my mum, my brothers, my uncles… everyone was at the game. They were really proud.
“To be fair, I didn’t know if it went in or not because someone was in front of me so I had to look back to see if it went in… but as soon as I realised it had, I was really happy.”
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Gordon’s phone was overwhelmed by messages of congratulations by the time he returned to the dressing room afterwards and switched it back on.
He smiles: “It wouldn’t stop… it wouldn’t stop. I was getting messages from lots of people; people from Derby were messaging me to say well done and that I’d come so far.
“Some of the players were messaging me to say well done as well. The family, everyone, was messaging me to say how proud they were.”
Seven days later, Gordon hit another significant milestone in his fledgling career – a top-flight bow.
Replacing Diogo Jota on 82 minutes of the 3-0 win against Brentford, he almost marked it with a goal, too. A through ball from Takumi Minamino allowed him to accelerate away from the visiting defenders, though he was eventually foiled by a save from Alvaro Fernandez.
“Yeah, it was really a big moment for me,” Gordon reflected. “My first Premier League game, 10 minutes, and so I wanted to show what I can do.
“Robbo and Hendo had a big influence… as soon as I came on the pitch, they were encouraging me, telling me to stay focused, do what you’ve got to do, that’s why you’re here.
“I don’t even know what I’d have done if it had gone in! I didn’t even expect it to come around, but as soon as Taki had the ball I thought I’d make the run. Unfortunately, I didn’t score.”
Goal or no goal, Gordon’s efforts earned him a trademark hug from Jürgen Klopp following the final whistle.
“I think he was just saying well done. I said thank you to him after the Norwich game [in September] because he gave me the chance,” he said.
“He’s helped me a lot. He gave me the chance to play and show what I can do. He thinks I have ability and I’m just happy about that.
“‘Just work hard,’ was the main thing he said when I was coming on. Just work hard, track back, get forward and do what I normally do because that’s why I’m here, so that helped me.”
The cameo also earned a social media shoutout from Trent Alexander-Arnold, who captioned a photograph of the pair embracing at full-time with the words: “The future is bright.”
“That was really good for me,” Gordon added. “Trent obviously has come from the Academy and has got to where he is now. We get along really well. It was really good for me to see.”
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The story of Gordon’s 2021-22 campaign can be traced back to early July when he, along with several other youngsters, reported for pre-season training at the AXA Training Centre a week before their more senior colleagues.
The No.49’s application and performance during the sessions led to him being included in the travelling party for Liverpool’s 28-day training camp in the Austrian venues of Saalfelden and Tirol, as well as a base in Evian, France.
“I think it helped me bond with the team,” said the forward. “I’d trained with them a few times, but especially when you’re away for a month you get to know everyone much better because you’re with each other every day and it improves you because you’re training with them every day.”
There was that forfeit, though. A last-placed finish in a player and staff quiz resulted in Gordon and some of his colleagues having to perform a dance routine, much to the amusement of everyone else who had evaded the punishment.
He smiled: “Yes, I know… I know. We lost in the quiz, so I had to do a dance with some of the other players and staff.
“It wasn’t too bad, to be fair. We all just got on with it and just did it. We just thought we’d just go for it – we lost, so we might as well just go for it.”
Nevertheless, Gordon’s form during the month on the road drew plenty of admirers, with Pepijn Lijnders noting how impressed he’d been with the youngster.
“Pep helps me a lot,” he said. “He is very good in the sessions, he tells me what to do, if I’m not used to doing something he will help me on it and try to make me improve.”
The training camp also presented Gordon with another unique opportunity – the chance to study Mohamed Salah up close.
Since then, sessions with the seniors have been utilised to glean as much as possible from the player many currently regard to be the finest on the planet.
“It’s helped me a lot seeing him, especially because Mo plays in my position so seeing what he does,” Gordon explained. “He is the best player in the world right now, so watching him and the extras he does really helps. It pushes me to try to get onto his level.
“The different types of positions he picks up, he scores from anywhere, he doesn’t just stay out wide, he drifts inside and things like that, so that’s definitely helped.
“He does a lot of work in the gym and he helps me with that as well; I’ve done some sessions with him. Mo really helps.
“I definitely couldn’t have a better role model, Mo does everything right.”
"Kaide was - and is always - in our mind because he's just an exceptional talent." - Jürgen Klopp
Gordon will mark one year as a Liverpool player next month. He joined the club’s Academy from Derby County in February 2021 and regularly features for the Reds’ junior sides.
“Everyone has been very good with me at the Academy. Bridgey – Marc Bridge-Wilkinson – messages me and continues to help me with different things. Everyone [there] still helps me,” he said.
“I think this last year has been crazy and has all gone so fast. I was at Derby last season, still playing U16s. Now I’ve just made my Premier League debut.
“My friends and family are just proud. They saw me at school and now they’re coming to a game and seeing what I am doing, they just think it’s crazy.
“It’s meant a lot to have my family there to watch me because they’ve been there for me. My mum and my oldest brother especially have been there for me since the start, really. My brother helped me during pre-season and stuff, he pushes me a lot.
“But I am still 17, still young, so there’s a lot to learn and improve on. The aim for the rest of this season is just to keep training hard and see what happens. I don’t really have any aims to play this many games, I just want to play as much as I can if it’s for the first team, U23s or U18s, I just want to play.”
In the longer term, though, Gordon’s target is a clear yet emphatic one.
“To be starting and playing for Liverpool in the Premier League.”
As simple and as concise as that?
Recent achievements would suggest he's taken the perfect initial steps towards making that long-term ambition a reality.