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MANAGER: He'll feel on top of the world

Paul Simpson on a dream start for John-Kymani Gordon

16 January 2023

Club News

MANAGER: He'll feel on top of the world

Paul Simpson on a dream start for John-Kymani Gordon

16 January 2023

What a few days that was for Palace forward John-Kymani Gordon who, just 24-hours after swapping London for Cumbria, made his debut for his new club, netted his first ever league goal, picked up the man-of-the-match award and, for good measure, also left the pitch to a standing ovation.

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The 19-year-old couldn’t have written a better script, and he certainly grabbed his opportunity with both hands with a cool finish that sealed the deal on the weekend’s three points.

Speaking about the impact the lively forward made, manager Paul Simpson said: “When he gets players facing him he’s just a handful. He’s shown there that he go inside, he can go down the line, and it’s good to have another player who can do that in the squad.

“I was a little bit concerned that I was asking a bit too much of him by putting him in straight away, but to get that goal was brilliant. It’ll make him feel on top of the world and hopefully it’s the first of many from him.

“When you go into a new football club the rest of the players all look and think, yeah, young kid coming from a Premier League club, I wonder what he’s going to be like.

“You get your street cred when you do it out on the pitch. I thought he got that from this game. He’s earned his stripes with the goal, and also with the way he went about it.

“People will rightly talk about his goal but there were bits in the first half where he was having to track back and make tackles, and he was recovering back into shape and doing the harder work.

“You don’t always get that out of academy players, so he’s done the ugly side of the game and he's helped to keep us in it, along with everybody else.

“He then got his reward with the goal, and I always had it in my mind that he would do 60 or 65 minutes, and thankfully that’s what came out of it.”

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We wondered if putting him straight into the mix had been a tough call for the manager to make, with the just the one training session under his belt.

“It was a big call really,” he admitted. “All three lads have worked hard - Alfie, Jack Robinson and JK - so it was a tricky one.

“I felt that because of the shape that I wanted to play, starting with a front three, I just felt he was the best option for us.

“I didn’t think it was right thing to start Omari Patrick, I wasn’t expecting to get 65 or 70 minutes out of him, so it was more about getting 20 or 25 for him so that we can build him up. He’s going to be a really important player for us between now and the end of the season.”

And in terms of the confidence he’ll take from an appearance full of positive incident, he added: “It’s great for him and if he did have any doubts about coming north, hopefully that’s helped.

“I’ve got to say he travelled up to Cumbria on Thursday with his agent and it was horrendous conditions when he got here. He’s seen nothing but rain and cold, and he might well have been wondering what on earth he was doing.

“One of the things I said to him last week when I met him down in London was that this move is about football for him, and it’s about him doing what’s right for his career.

“I told him that he puts himself on a stage here in front of over 5,000 fans for each of our home games, and we get 500 to 1,500 away, and that’s where you earn your bread and butter.

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“He’s made a brave decision because he could have stayed and had his family comforts at home, but he’s come here and he’s started off on the right foot.

“My big thing for players in this situation is that I tell them to not only go and feel what first team football is like, but go and grow up as a person as well.

“We’ve got to help him with that, he will have some tough times being away from home, but we will help him and we hope he does develop as a footballer, and also as a bloke.”

The finish was almost a given from the second he picked up the ball and got his head down, with just one thing in mind.

“I thought Denno did really well with his part in it,” the boss commented. “It wasn’t a great ball that was floated up in the air but he made it difficult for the centre-back, got his backside in and then showed real composure to get it down and play.

“It looks a simple pass, but it’s the kind of pass we weren’t doing particularly well in the first half. He sent it out to JK, and then once he got that chance to face the defender I expected him to drop inside on his right foot.

“He surprised everybody, went on his left, and it’s a brilliant finish, drilled across the keeper. It really will have done him the world of good.”

And it was revealed that it was a tweak to the way he’d been working, talked about during the break, which had helped to put him in the right place at the right time.

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14 January 2023

“I felt in the first half he just kept drifting inside a little bit too much, so at half time we asked him to hold his width a bit more,” he explained. “I wanted to see if we could get him a little bit into better positions where he could face their players up.

“You could just feel his eyes lighting up as soon as he got that ball. He knows in that situation he’s a handful. That’s difficult to defend against.

“No defender, particularly outside centre-backs, they don’t like somebody coming at them and not knowing whether he can come inside or outside. It’s a great ability to have and thankfully he got a great strike and finish as well.”

Having put his faith in the 19-year-old, and had it immediately repaid, he said: “I think it’s credit for the work that goes on behind the scenes.

“We’ve not made rash decisions and we’re not plucking names out of computers just to look. We’ve all been out and looked at JK, we’ve all seen what he’s about.

“Then all the work that goes in to persuade his agent and the lad that it’s the right thing. And Crystal Palace, we can all thank them for trusting us to look after him, because they think highly of him.

“He’s been involved on their first team bench in Premier League and FA Cup games of late. He’s obviously a player they think highly of and they’re trusting us to look after him.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to develop him, like we did with Fin Back, and make sure the club’s happy with it, make sure they’re producing performances, and make sure he goes back to Crystal Palace a much better player than when he came.”

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