Joe Gomez has had a big week, arguably the biggest of his young career so far.
At 20-years-old, the Liverpool starlet has finally started earning regular first-team minutes after a devastating series of injury setbacks the last two years. As a result, he was handed his first senior England caps, and was awarded Man of the Match honors in the scoreless draw against Brazil. This was the second of two clean sheets kept by the Three Lions, against presumptive World Cup favorites Germany and Brazil, no less.
Gomez’s hard work—rising through the ranks at Charlton Athletic, signing for Liverpool, recovering from injury, and playing his way back into the starting XI—seems to finally be paying off. (You know, other than the millions of pounds he’s earning for kicking a ball). Now, the former Charlton academy manager, Paul Hart, is reflecting on a big turning point in Gomez’s career: the decision not to leave the Championship club for Chelsea when he was 15-years-old.
“We didn’t want to hold him back, but we explained we thought it would be beneficial to stay longer, learn his trade and try to get in the first team, and then go,” Hart said.
“We had his mum and dad, and his agent along and they listened to what we said, trusted us and bought into it.
“You try not to have favourites, but I was always very impressed with Joe.
"But he wasn’t the finished article and to play as a centre-back, aerially he had to get better."
Gomez stayed at the club for another three years, until Liverpool came and made the swoop for him for £3.5 million in the summer of 2015. In the 2014/15 campaign, Gomez made 24 appearances for Charlton, giving him important first-team minutes in which to develop.
The decision to finally move on came when he found an opportunity in Liverpool to move to a bigger club and have some assurance of regular minutes. And because of our, eh-hem, defensive issues, this seems to be a case where Gomez will be getting a lot more minutes in the foreseeable future.