It’s not easy being a goalkeeper. Any mistakes are over-scrutinized by people who have probably never spent a minute in goal. You don’t get any credit unless you have a 10-save game like Yann Sommer did against Spain. Add relentless outside media scrutiny to this in-house pressure cooker and you wonder why anyone would want to be England’s number one.
Jordan Pickford, however, is up to the challenge. The 27-year-old might not have been the first choice if Burnley’s Nick Pope had been in shape, but given the opportunity to hold his spot, he has taken it with both hands (all pun intended). England and Pickford have yet to concede a goal in their four games so far and one would certainly bet they keep a clean sheet from the tournament against Ukraine intact.
A SEASON OF RUSSIAN MOUNTAINS
The Everton man seems to always be in his prime when he takes on the Three Lions target. After a high and low season at Goodison Park, Pickford has shown no signs of doubt and has been the leader at the rear, especially in the absence of Harry Maguire.
Virgil van Dijk was forced to retire due to injury after a challenge from Jordan Pickford. pic.twitter.com/pTBaW2fcTB
– Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) October 17, 2020
Pickford’s season got off to a dubious start. At first he faced an immense backlash due to Virgil van Dijk’s unfortunate injury (No, Liverpool fans, it was unintentional). His form dropped and Carlo Ancelotti dropped him, but Gareth Southgate kept his trust in him. And Pickford had guaranteed that faith.
RACE IN ENGLAND
When the young goalkeeper made his way to Sunderland, the situation for England’s goalkeepers was not very bright. Joe Hart was in disgrace and decay. Tom Heaton and Fraser Forster had made a claim, but had not backed it up.
In fact, no one for sure had held England’s number one spot since David Seaman in the 1990s. Hart and David James were there for a long time but did not deliver their best performances on the national stage. In between there were periods of uncertainty, where good goalkeepers made bad mistakes and national disdain prevented them from getting a second chance.
Shilton, James, Robinson and Hart combined for 0 saves of 16 penalties on goal. The rival goalkeepers saved 9 of 28 on goal.
– Justin Bryant (@Keepers_Union) March 7, 2015
In this environment, 23-year-old Jordan Pickford made his debut at the end of 2017. Their exceptional performances combined put his name on the hat to be number one at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The estrangement from his peers and rivals it meant that Southgate gave him the starting place and it seemed that Pickford had been born for the time being.
WORLD CUP 2018
Russia 2018 was England’s best major tournament in more than a generation. The Three Lions finished second in their group behind Belgium. Against Belgium, Adnan Januzaj delivered an exceptional blow, the only one of the game, and Pickford received invalid criticism for letting that goal in. Opposing goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois claimed his hands were short, while comfortable studio experts felt he was trying to be more flashy than necessary.
In the next game against Colombia, Pickford came out with a vengeance. He saved a 30-yard volley destined for Mateus Uribe’s top layup before making a decisive save by Carlos Bacca on penalties to send his country to the quarterfinals.
Pickford has shown throughout his career that he appears when the pressure is high and the pressure has possibly never been higher. Now he faces his own rivals in the form of Dean Henderson, Sam Johnstone and Aaron Ramsdale, in addition to Pope. And in true Pickford fashion, he has stepped up his game at Euro 2020.
PICKFORD AT EURO 2020
There has been no sign of the wavering goalkeeper we were seeing in the first months of last season. Perhaps that is a form of payment to Gareth Southgate for maintaining his confidence, something that Ancelotti did not do. His form may vary, but it is undeniable that Pickford is the best English goalkeeper at the moment.
His saves by Kai Havertz and Timo Werner against Germany and before Stephen O’Donnell against Scotland have been crucial to England’s unmatched defensive record. Pickford has quietly put all the pre-tournament clamor behind with his performances, although he doesn’t necessarily keep quiet on the field.
Thank you message to Jordan Pickford.
– Everton (@Everton) June 29, 2021
A loud northern porter isn’t exactly England’s cup of tea, but Pickford isn’t here to please people. He’s here to win and he’s doing it with a certain flair. The chances are high that England can get through the entire tournament without conceding a single goal. If football is coming home, then Pickford is in the front seat driving it backwards.