You wouldn’t blame Gareth Southgate if his gaze wandered around the Premier League goalmouths. But Jordan Pickford has proved to the England boss he was right all along to put his faith in the Everton goalkeeper.
Pickford excelled in the Merseyside derby. He made eight saves, the most of any goalkeeper in a Premier League game this season. Some were routine stops for an elite keeper; A pair, Darwin Nunez in the first half and Mo Salah on death, highlighted why the other high-profile options available to Southgate are doomed to usurp Pickford in the short period leading up to the World Cup.
That’s no small feat for those with ambitions to keep England’s goal. Like his Arsenal team-mates, Aaron Ramsdale has started the season in fine form; Nick Pope was predictably solid in Newcastle’s sticks. And Dean Henderson has emerged from the wild at Manchester United to demonstrate at Nottingham Forest why he thinks he’s Lev Yashin incarnate, even if nobody at Old Trafford would agree.
This trio have done their part, but all counted on Pickford’s standards to drop if they seriously advocated being Southgate’s glove man. It was barely outside the realm of possibility – Pickford’s form has dipped in the past. However, his performances earlier in the season were pivotal in making Everton hard to beat even if they have yet to win.
16 takeaways from the Merseyside derby
Pickford’s work extends beyond the last month. He was instrumental in lifting Everton out of the relegation quagmire last season, most notably for his performances in big games against Manchester United and Chelsea.
With all the noise surrounding Pickford’s international office, you won’t hear any of it from Goodison. Everton recognized their goalkeeper’s contribution throughout last season, not just on the last straight, by naming him player of the season. Those at Gwladys Street End will tell you that tonight’s performance was typical of their No.1.
“We build. We now have this character as a team. Our team spirit drives us.”
Phenomenal Man of the Match performance by Everton’s Jordan Pickford 👏
– Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 3, 2022
Goodison aside, however, Pickford is still struggling to get the recognition he deserves as England’s most important man of the past four years. Of course, his performances as No. 1 draw more scrutiny than most and Pickford makes himself an easy target with his all-eyes-on-me goalkeeping style.
It came as no surprise to hear Pickford cite Joe Hart as his biggest influence as a youngster, with the two following similar paths, paying their contributions through the leagues to England’s goal. However, Pickford, arriving at the sort of crossroads where Hart’s career went off course, seems to have navigated these dangers safely.
Hart-Dog didn’t catch on quickly enough, but Pickford acknowledged that there is little longevity in existence the stupid puppy. The 28-year-old sought help from a psychologist and while his presence remains visible – and audible – at all times, Pickford is certainly channeling his enthusiasm and energy in more productive ways for club and country, as evidenced by the fact he’s wearing the Everton armband.
Ramsdale and Henderson are similar in their psyche, leaving Pope as the only option Southgate has if he’d rather have a calmer person in his web. But after his pre-season performances after a stellar end-of-term contribution, the England boss no longer needs to consider whether Pickford should be replaced.