Unfazed by Everton making him the most expensive English goalkeeper of all time, Jordan Pickford has been very vocally going about his business with the Blues showing that he has been worth the £30m transfer fee.
Everton’s 2-0 win over Hajduk Split on Thursday in the Europa League playoff round was Pickford’s third consecutive clean sheet in a competitive fixture, and was watched by England manager Gareth Southgate in person at Goodison Park.
The gaffer will not have failed to see that the youngster has been very confident when coming out to collect high balls, organizing his defence according to what he sees and even giving his players a dressing down when needed, even if they are legends of the modern game named Wayne Rooney.
And that’s before we get into his amazing distribution of the ball, including his now-regular ‘sidewinder’ goalkicks that usually find someone in space.
Only three goalkeepers have achieved a hattrick of clean sheets in their first three appearances in the club’s history - James Caldwell in 1912, Thomas Myhre in 1997 and now Pickford.
Speaking to evertonfc.com, insisted he was not intimidated by getting his voice heard in what is a very veteran Everton defence with some senior players getting an earful from the Three Lions Under-21 international.
“No, [I’m not intimidated]. It’s part of the job as a keeper and as long as I’m organising, then I’m helping the lads in front of me because I can see more of the pitch in front of me.
“If someone makes a run off their shoulder and I let them know then the lads will give me a thumbs up.
“It feels natural [to lead]. That’s why I went on loan when I was 17 years old and I did it straightaway. As a keeper I think it’s part of the job. If you’re quiet as a keeper then it might make problems but I feel if you do it in the right way week-in, week-out and you know the lads and they know what to expect from you then it will all work out.
“As long as we are keeping the ball out of the net and keeping shots away from goal then we are doing our job as a unit.”
Talking about the tongue-lashing he gave Rooney -
“I just said to keep going and keep switched on. But Wayne’s role when we’re defending set-pieces is to sit in the hole, so I’ve got to organise where he goes. We were a bit under the cosh at that point in the game. But that’s my job.”
Pickford’s concentration is one of his strong points, as he showed keeping out Xherdan Shaqiri’s rocket against Stoke late in the game to preserve the win.
“It’s about the mental side of it and keeping switched on all the time.
“With Sunderland you were always busy and as a keeper sometimes you want to be busy, and sometimes you don’t want to be busy. It’s part of the job. At Sunderland there were sometimes games where I wasn’t busy but you’ve just got to be bob on all the time really.
“You’ve got to take the games where you don’t do stuff and get better from it. In the Euros with England Under-21s in the summer, there were a lot of spells where I didn’t have to do anything but as a keeper you have to be switched on so it’s all a learning process.
“You can’t let your mind drift. That’s why I’m always talking in front of the lads and keeping switched on and keeping in the game. As long as you are in the game, you should be alright.
“If you watch me I will always keep moving across and I’m always demanding in the right way to keep the ball as far away as possible from me. If we can do that then I won’t have to make saves so it’s all about talking and communication. That’s massive.”
Despite Southgate’s presence at the game, the youngster insists his focus is solely on this season and doing his job well.
“I didn’t know [Southgate] was here but I’ve just got to concentrate on the pitch and keep putting in good performances week-in, week-out.
“I believe in myself. I’m always going to improve as a keeper and I’m never going to stop improving. I’ll take everything on board that I can and try to become the best keeper that I can be and hopefully one day that will be England’s number one.”
It’ll be no surprise to see Pickford in the Three Lions setup for the upcoming international break at the end of the month, and if he can turn in another commanding performance tomorrow at Manchester City there’s no reason he won’t get a starting role in the World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia.