Everton’s Jordan Pickford set to start for England in World Cup
It must be with some trepidation that Everton fans greeted the news that Southgate has opted for Jordan Pickford as his number one for the World Cup. It’s a bold move by the England boss, as he puts his faith in the twenty-four year old who has played in just one competitive match for the National Team prior to this tournament.
For sure, this is a gamble, but in all honesty, it was decision Southate was forced in to. For Pickford it represents a massive challenge. It could be the springboard to future success or it could prove a fatal confidence crippling trapdoor. Only time and results will tell.
Southgate faced a real famine of Goalkeeping options going into this World Cup. Not only is he picking players from teams outside of the top six, but he has had to choose untested men. He was right to jettison Joe Hart from consideration, however ruthless the decision, but it has left him very short.
The three ‘keepers heading to Russia have just eleven caps between them. One has just been relegated, one was number two at Burnley at the start of last season and the other played in the toxic atmosphere of Goodison Park all season. Pickford, Butland and Pope really are the best of a bad bunch, and it is a real shame that a country which once produced Banks, Clemence, Shilton and Seaman, is so bereft of options.
Pickford to the rescue?
In fairness to Pickford he does look a good ‘keeper. Everton’s Player of the Season has gone from strength to strength since leaving Sunderland for in 2017. Strong handling and a vocal presence at the back have seen him rise to the top of England’s tree. His height is concerning, but hasn’t yet hindered him in his career, however shorter ‘keepers are often found out and have been known to cause uncertainty in the back four, as Shay Given was often guilty of at Newcastle.
However, with reports Bayern Munich are said to be monitoring his progress, it really is high times for the Washington born ‘keeper. The World Cup could be his moment, but it is not a great place for a young ‘keeper to be cutting his teeth.
Pressure, pressure, Pressure
England have no chance of winning this tournament if we’re being brutally honest. It should be treated as an opportunity for younger players to express themselves and have a go at playing some good football for once. Dream on. The pressure will be ridiculously cranked up for their first game in Volgograd as the mighty Tunisia have a go at park the bus football.
Pickford will need to draw on all of his reserves of mental strength if he is to impress in the group stage and beyond. You only need to ask the likes of Scott Carson and Rob Green who failed when the pressure was so high, it is a merciless master. It can be argued that neither man recovered from their errors such was the media and fan scrutiny that followed them.
It would be wonderful for Pickford’s promising career if he can come through this unscathed and with his career enhanced. No doubt he will benefit from playing two group matches prior to the real challenge of Belgium. This will give him real momentum and confidence as we face the likely group winners in twenty-three days.
For any team to do well, they must have a good ‘keeper. England currently have a problem in that position, Southgate feels Pickford is the solution. If he’s right, then we will have plugged a hole for now. Regardless though, it is a real worry that the Premier League’s big boys seem unconvinced by English ‘keepers. Efforts must be made to improve our numbers and player’s exposure to quality game time as they make their way through the youth ranks.
When Spain won the World Cup in 2010 their goalkeepers played for Real Madrid, Liverpool and Barcelona. This standard, while hugely impressive, is not essential. What it does highlight is that other top football nations appear to be able to get this right. If England want to win trophies again then they must address this problem and not just hope that another Hart or Seaman is around the corner. Perhaps good youngsters should go abroad to play in some bigger teams, thus boosting their experience and expose to real pressure. Whatever the solution, we cannot carry on throwing caution to the wind and putting out faith in untested players on the biggest stage of international football.