Liverpool look to have found a gem in 18-year-old defender Joe Gomez. The England youth team international, a summer signing from Championship side Charlton Athletic, has made an instant impact at Anfield – making the left-back position his own and impressing with both his maturity and his ability.
However, the youngster has this week admitted that it’s not just on the pitch that his life has changed. The exciting full-back is now living on his own, having moved from London to Merseyside, and admits that one of the things he’s missing most is some home cooking – something which really puts his incredible rise into context.
“I lived at home when I was playing for Charlton,” he told the Daily Express. “So this is the first time I have been living by myself. If we finish training early you can be on your own quite a while, so it is all about learning to be independent in a different sort of way.
“I’m trying to cook meals… and I’m getting better to be fair. My speciality? The simple things like a stir fry, spaghetti bolognese and warming up some Uncle Bens. But I wouldn’t say I can make something spectacular. I’ve been used to my mum’s cooking!”
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Gomez, who was one of seven signings for us before the start of the new season, made his top flight bow against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium – a hugely challenging place for a young player to make his bow for his new club. However, the youngster took the challenge in his stride and helped Liverpool claim a crucial three points, avenging the painful 6-1 defeat we suffered at the same venue last season.
During the game he was up against veteran forward Jonathan Walters, who he admits was a good test during his first game. He reflected: “He had the experience. He was able to do little things like use his physical side to draw fouls, but at the same time he had the Premier League quality with the ball as well.
“Generally before a game I am wary of who am I up against, but once the game starts I just get on with it. I am not going to be scared or worried. If an opponent gets the better of me then the next time I will try and get the better of them.”
Pleasingly however, Gomez is refusing to get carried away with his fine start to the season. Although his progress so far has been remarkable, he’s determined to prove himself over a long-term basis, and told reporters that his performances in just two games mean very little.
“I wouldn’t say it has been a dream,” he said. “I think I said the move to come to Liverpool was a dream, but I know I have only played two games. I haven’t done anything yet. It has been positive and a really good learning experience. The one thing it has done is it has motivated me to try and do more.
“There was a possibility I might go on loan, but, for me, I didn’t want to aim for that. I wanted to come and play but I knew being young and coming from the Championship that that could be a possibility, especially because there are top quality players here.”
Since arriving at Liverpool, Gomez has been playing as a full-back, predominately on the left-hand side. Despite the fact that he still considers himself to be best suited to a role at the heart of the defence, he says he’s just grateful to be getting the chance to show what he can do.
“I knew I had to come in and prove myself straight away. It has been a bit of a surprise playing at left-back. I like to think I am a centre-back, but I knew full-back would give me the best opportunity to play – just not on that side.
“Receiving the ball is obviously different, but at the same time it does give you options because when you come inside you are on your stronger foot. But it is a challenge and it’s not what I am used to. It’s helping me learn to use my weaker foot which is good.
“It is a whole other level to what I have been used to at Liverpool. No disrespect to Charlton, but you are expected to win here. I am enjoying it, but I am trying not to take too much glory from it. It’s two games.”
Gomez also explained that it’s thanks to his family and friends that he’s remained so grounded. It’s something which he feels is very important, particularly now, following his move to the big time.
“Before I sort of signed professional at Charlton, there was interest in me but it never really got to the point where I was sitting down and discussing opportunities. When I was young my dad said to my agents that he wanted to keep any interest away from me. It was only later I found out this or that club had an interest in me.
“My dad didn’t want anything to get into my head. My parents and my siblings (three sisters and a brother) are big factors in keeping me grounded. Going into secondary school, I’ve had the same friends so I have always been around the same people. If I tried to change or get ahead of myself they would tell me straight away.
“A lot of people think footballers have a flash lifestyle and go out and do this. I am the opposite. I am a home-bird, who likes to be around family and friends. I just prefer in a calm environment.”
However, it was Brendan Rodgers who ultimately convinced Gomez to move to Merseyside, following a meeting between manager and player back in June.
“I had options but once I met him straight away it felt like I wanted to come here. It has been everything I thought it would be and more. I am just getting on with it. I am wary at the same time. I have far from secured a place in the team and I know I need to keep working and learning from the manager and so on.”
Despite appearing to have confidence that defies his years, Gomez insists that it hasn’t always been that way. He told the Express how an injury once left him feeling very down about his future prospects.
“I have had phases where I have felt a bit down, confidence wise,” he said. “I had a period where I was playing every other game at Charlton and then I did some ligaments in my ankle. It was my first proper injury and I was out for eight weeks.
“Because last season was my first season, and there was a new manager, I was anxious was I going to drop back again. I would over think things a lot and my confidence suffered. I wasn’t playing naturally when I got back and all the people around me knew it was a rough period.”
Thankfully, he’s exactly where he wants to be right now, even if it’s been a bit scary at times: “I get changed in between Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino for training and it was weird at first. I was like, ‘wow’,” he added.
We can understand why that might make anyone nervous! After all, in the real world, this kid would have only just left school – he doesn’t even turn 19 until May. What a future he has ahead of him.