In defiance of Sunderland’s disastrous start to the English Premier League season, their young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is performing tremendously well.
Since Victor Mannone tore elbow ligaments during a training session, Pickford has deputised for the 28-year-old Italian, despite the arrival at Sunderland of the former Portuguese U-21 goalkeeper Mika from Boavista.
As well as keeping a clean sheet in Sunderland’s only win of the season thus far, which was a 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury in the League Cup Pickford has produced three excellent Premier League displays, as the 22-year-old’s development into a top glass goalkeeper gathers momentum.
Form of Pickford one major positive for Sunderland
Although guilty of being at fault for a Jay Rodriguez goal in his first Premier League game of the season, as Sunderland drew 1-1 away to Southampton, Pickford made several impressive during that game, whilst marshalling his defence with great maturity.
The manner in which Pickford responded to his error against Southampton has been extremely impressive, as he prevented the margin of Sunderland’s 3-0 and 1-0 defeats to Everton and Tottenham, respectively, being far wider than they were.
That was particularly the case against Tottenham.
Despite bombarding the Sunderland goal whereby they had a total of 34 shots, Mauricio Pochettino’s side only scored once as Harry Kane capitalised on a Papy Djilobodji mistake to beat Pickford, who produced a series of fine saves to otherwise frustrate Tottenham.
Another positive aspect of his performance against Tottenham was Pickford’s distribution, as he showed assured footing to consistently find team mates, whilst on one occasion setting up a first half chance for Jermain Defoe to score with an accurate long ball.
As such in stark contrast to Sunderland’s current struggles, which has resulted in David Moyes’ team collecting just one point from their first five Premier League matches of the season, Pickford is in outstanding form.
The platform upon which Pickford is currently building
A product of the Black Cats youth academy, Pickford has represented England at every level from under-16 to under-21, whilst relative to the latter age group, he was a member of Gareth Southgate’s side which won the 2016 Toulon Tournament.
Furthermore prior to making his Sunderland debut last January in a 3-1 F.A Cup defeat to Arsenal, Pickford gained invaluable experience of playing first team football whilst on loan to Darlington, Alfreton Town, Carlisle United, Burton Albion and Preston North End.
Given that, Pickford has played in each of the top five divisions – Conference to Premier League – of English football and is at present flourishing in the country’s top flight where, on the basis of Sunderland’s current form, a busy season lies ahead for the ever improving Washington, Tyne and Wear born player.
Potential for Pickford to play for England
Nevertheless Pickford undoubtedly possesses the potential to both, become one of the finest goalkeepers in the English Premier League and earn his first call-up to England’s senior international squad.
That is particularly the case since two of the country’s best goalkeepers in the guise of Jack Butland and Fraser Forster are unavailable for former Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce to select as a result of injury.
Between now and England’s next 2018 World Cup qualifier against Malta, Pickford is likely to receive three more opportunities to impress Allardyce, as Sunderland are set to play a League Cup tie against Queens Park Rangers, whilst also facing Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.
Strives to remain as Sunderland’s no.1
In terms of aspiring to recover from their poor start to the season, each of those games is of the utmost important to Sunderland whilst so too is Pickford as he aims to firmly establish himself as the Black Cats number one in the absence of Mannone.