‘At least everyone laughs about it now’: Jordan Pickford on… Marco Silva, fame and tweeting about Nandos
Jordan Pickford has noticed how England’s achievements at the World Cup have cut through the tribal nature of club football.
‘It’s incredible. You come out at away games and fans give you a round of applause,’ he says, taken aback. ‘It’s very touching because you don’t expect that. It shows how the country got behind us.’
The 24-year-old Everton goalkeeper has enjoyed a meteoric rise. Five years ago, he was on loan at non-league Alfreton Town. He only made his Sunderland debut in 2016, away to Arsenal where he plays today.
Jordan Pickford claims he is still a grounded boy from the north East, despite his rise to fame
It was less than a year ago he won his first England cap before a late run saw him displace Joe Hart and Jack Butland to be No1 in Russia.
Now it’s about living up to his new-found reputation. If he needed a reminder, a kicking mistake in last Sunday’s 3-1 home defeat against West Ham provided one.
‘There’s a greater expectation to perform every week,’ he acknowledges. ‘People put on more pressure and if you deal with it, which I will do, you become a better person and goalkeeper.’
Pickford is a son of the north-east, born in Washington, Tyne & Wear and a graduate of the Sunderland academy.
He retains a strong accent which gives him an authenticity amidst the sudden fame, and a bit of fortune having recently bought a £2million mansion in Cheshire.
It wasn’t that long ago he was anonymous enough to happily tweet about Nandos, losing £20 shopping at Asda, a favourite band The Courteeners and wanting his parents to install Sky Sports in his bedroom.
The England stopper coached Everton in the Community’s pan-disability football team
‘Great craic,’ he smiles. ‘It’s part of growing up and at least everyone laughs about it now. But I don’t think I’ll be putting up any more tweets about Sky or Nandos any time soon!
‘The Courteneers are still a good band though. They’re playing in Liverpool next month. I wish I could do stuff like that now but I don’t think it would get taken the same way.
‘I’m just a normal lad from Washington. My mam and dad have brought us up well. You stay grounded and level-headed. But I have got Sky in a couple of rooms now!’
Competing in the Premier League is a serious business. Pickford was linked with Chelsea last summer but remains at Goodison Park trying to rouse a sleeping giant whose last trophy was back in 1995.
Pickford is already on his third manager in 15 months at Everton but the plan is for new man Marco Silva to stay and build something long-term.
He recruited seven players in the last window including three from Barcelona and is installing different tactics to predecessor Sam Allardyce.
After staying unbeaten in his first five matches, last Sunday’s loss exposed defensive frailties. In other games Everton have conceded from set-pieces as they adjust to defending zonally.
Marco Silva is Jordan Pickford’s third manager in 15 months but he feels he is adapting well
‘The gaffer’s got a new regime of training so you’re adapting to that. It’s a lot harder than it was last year,’ reveals Pickford.
‘He’s brought in his own staff, including a new goalkeeper coach. We’re on the pitch every day, hard days on Tuesday and Wednesday, a lot of tactical work Thursday and Friday. It’s new to a lot of us.
‘With Sam and Marg (Everton’s former goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson) we did man-for-man marking at corners. I thought we were consistent with it but like I say new manager, new ideas.
‘Sometimes it takes a few weeks. We didn’t concede from a set-piece on Sunday and as long as we get drilled properly, and the manager is working hard with us, we’ll crack it.
Pickford has barely had time to reflect and watch his summer’s exploits in Russia though there was a brief chance to look at pictures and video footage on the last international get-together.
Having made his England debut less than a year before the World Cup, Pickford was made No 1
His penalty saves in the shoot-out against Colombia made him a national hero though he’s still aggrieved his worldie save from a volley in the final minute of normal time counted for nothing as Yerry Mina scored with a header from the following corner.
Ironically, Mina is now his team-mate at Goodison Park and could make his debut at The Emirates, as star man Richarlison also returns from suspension.
‘It was a great save then Mina, the bugger, pops up with a header. I’ll wait until his English is better before I have a conversation with him about that!’
England’s success was based on Pickford having three central defenders in front of him. It’s a system that Everton could adopt to get the best out of their attacking full-backs Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne.
‘I think we’ve got the ability in the squad to play various formations. It’s up to the gaffer, but last year at Watford he did play three at the back sometimes. ‘Sometimes, three at the back gives you the option to play out more easily as well,’ is Pickford’s assessment.
On a personal level, the next target for Pickford is to make the jump from being regarded as international-class to world-class.
Pickford identified Premier League rival David de Gea as the best in the world currently
‘I’d say David de Gea is probably the best in the world right now,’ he says. ‘Ben Foster called him the Messi of goalkeepers. At the level I’m at, you want to be the best in the world, hitting those levels. The only way to do that is by making saves, getting in man-of-the-match performances.
‘You see how goalkeepers are valued now in the transfer market. Mistakes cost games. If you make saves, the team might only need one goal at the other end to win.’
Pickford remains Britain’s most expensive ‘keeper at £35million but his fee was dwarfed in the last window by Chelsea signing Kepa (£71m) and Liverpool’s Allison (£66m).
Today’s game underline how fast his career has travelled. It was as recently as January 2016 when Allardyce gave him the nod to make his Sunderland debut in an FA Cup tie at Arsenal.
‘That game will always live with us,’ he says. ‘I did alright though we lost 3-1. The next season at Arsenal I had a stormer. They had 36 shots on goal but only won 2-0!’
He returns to north London this afternoon with a far bigger reputation. ‘Hopefully I’ll become an Everton legend,’ he says diplomatically. The truth is if he carries on with his current rate of progress, anything is possible.
Jordan Pickford took part in a coaching session withEverton in the Community’s pan-disability football team this week.
The disability programme delivered by the Club’s official charity is one of the largest and most respected in Europe and provides football and physical activity opportunities to over a thousand disabled children and adults each year.