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Veteran goalie backs Pickford for success

Stek expects Pickford to star for England at the World Cup

England Media Access - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images

If anyone knows the pressure cooker atmosphere of playing in goal during a World Cup it’s Everton backup goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

Stek played every minute of the Netherlands’ silver-medal winning campaign in the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa, only succumbing in extra time to winners Spain. He reported to Everton’s first preseason training session back at Finch Farm earlier today, and spoke to about the pressure England’s starting goalie Jordan Pickford will be feeling.

“Jordan did extremely well last season and had good momentum going into the summer. I expected him to be picked as England’s first-choice goalkeeper; in my opinion, that is what he is. And he is doing very well in the tournament so far.

“Jordan has a lot of self-belief and is so focused. You need those qualities if you want to perform to the level he is capable of reaching. And I know what he is capable of after training with him for a year.

“He does not panic and he works hard. He will not be bothered by anything.

“If you play a tournament as a goalkeeper there is a lot of attention on you. I made a mistake in the semi-final against Uruguay but we won 3-2 and reached the final anyway. It did not matter and you cannot let anything bother you.

“But the tournament really starts when you reach the knockout rounds and I have absolutely no doubt Jordan will play well against Colombia.”

Pickford came in for some unwarranted criticism following England’s loss to Belgium in the last group game after Adnan Januzaj’s shot looped over him for the winner, but has been backed by a number of veterans, including club legend Neville Southall, to ignore the chatter.

The Dutchman added that Pickford wouldn’t be affected by that.

“You do not think about what might come next. In my experience, you just go on the pitch and keep doing what you were doing in the group stage.

“When you lose you have to go on your holiday. You get your holiday anyway, so you want to delay it as long as possible!

“You have a plan for each game, you are not going to have an easy game in the knockout stages of the World Cup. One bad night and it is over.

“I am sure Jordan will retain the focus he had throughout the season and so far in this tournament.

“We could not think about playing Brazil, first we had to beat Slovakia. The next game is the most important and if you think beyond it you will be going home.”

Stek commended the 24-year-old goalkeeper as he has not been fazed by the magnitude of playing at the World Cup, his first ever tournament as England’s #1.

“You train every day at a World Cup and your routines are not greatly different from what you do at your club during the season.

“You just have to continue doing what you have been doing. And the same applies on the pitch in the competition, you cannot think about the pressure of it being sudden death. In my experience, you just go on the pitch and keep doing what you were doing in the group stage.

“A World Cup is the pinnacle for a footballer. When you are away with the team and preparing for a World Cup and then playing in it you do not think about what is happening at home.

”It is only afterwards you realise. When we went home in 2010 we saw what it meant to the people in Holland. But when you are at the tournament you are totally focused on it, you do not think about anything else.”

England manager Gareth Southgate has given Pickford his full backing, and Stek feels that will give him a confidence boost.

“A goalkeeper sees everything, so he needs to talk. That communication with your defence is vital. Somebody told me at the start of my career, the best goalkeepers do not have to make saves. You put your defenders in the right positions.

“Jordan talks all the time, which helps his defenders and helps him as well.

“Having the confidence of the coach is vital. It is reassuring to know that whatever happens the manager will stick by you.

“I could see from playing against Jordan before he came to Everton how much potential he had. He did very well last season and will only grow and get better.”

Here’s wishing Everton’s sole surviving representative at the World Cup all the best when he faces Colombia tomorrow.