After another outstanding tournament as England’s No 1, Jordan Pickford MUST take his brilliant displays into the new Premier League season after a fine finish to the last one… new boss Rafa Benitez needs his keeper in top form to win over Everton fans
- England’s Jordan Pickford had a terrific Euro 2020 in goal, conceding just twice
- The keeper made a string of brilliant saves and marshalled his defence superbly
- But it hasn’t always been such smooth sailing for Pickford at his club Everton
- The 27-year-old has endured a topsy-turvy four years on Merseyside so far
- New boss Rafa Benitez needs his No 1 to perform when the new season starts
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
While everybody else had their head in their hands as Jorginho strode up to win Euro 2020 for Italy, England’s No 1 was unfazed.
‘No problem,’ he confidently bellowed to himself. An unflappable confidence few others had. Low and behold, Pickford stood firm and sprung to his right to keep England, momentarily, in the final.
Of course, in the end it wasn’t meant to be for the Three Lions. But for Pickford – who had his doubters after something of a topsy-turvy campaign for Everton – it was redemption.
England’s Jordan Pickford saved brilliantly from Jorginho at the end of the penalty shoot-out
In the end, it wasn’t meant to be for the Three Lions but Pickford was a standout performer
Goals conceded: 39
Clean sheets: 10
His preparation for that shoot-out was inspired too.
The Everton No 1 famously had details on his drinks bottle about Colombia’s penalty takers in the 2018 World Cup last-16 win, a result that snapped England’s dreaded shootout curse.
And it worked for Pickford again on Sunday as he brilliantly saved two of Italy’s five penalties – but he was still on the losing side after England missed three of their own.
Sportsmail pictured Pickford checking the bottle before the penalties at Wembley, although from the angle of the images, none of the players listed on Pickford’s notes took a spot-kick.
But, after all of this fanfare, as opposed to the aftermath of a breakthrough tournament at the 2018 World Cup, Pickford must now take this inspired international form into the Premier League season.
Pickford had details of Italian penalty-takers on his water bottle – and he saved two spot-kicks
Yet the 27-year-old’s form for his club, Everton, has been more topsy-turvy than for England
Starring in a tournament is one thing, performing week-in, week-out is quite another.
Because Pickford has his critics, left right and centre, in four years at Goodison Park, plagued by some terrific individual displays but, more so, some horror errors.
Of course, there was his infamous last-minute foul-up involving the crossbar that allowed Divock Origi to score a stoppage-time winner for Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby in December 2018.
And, as recently as last season, the 27-year-old was dropped momentarily by Carlo Ancelotti for Robin Olsen amid a decline in form.
Pickford infamously allowed Liverpool’s Divock Origi to score late-on in December 2018
The Everton keeper failed to tip the ball over the bar and it ricocheted into Origi’s path
There was also all the fallout, some unjustified, by his lunge at Virgil van Dijk which resulted in the Reds centre back missing the rest of the season with an ACL injury.
Yet, we should give Pickford credit. Because to come back from all this and still have the self-confidence in his ability – as clearly illustrated for his country before anything else – is a uncommon trait. Many would falter in the wake of such high-profile criticism.
He actually finished the last few months of the 2020-21 season strongly, in a side which faltered after such a lightning start.
Credit must go to Southgate here, too, for sticking with Pickford when everyone else was telling him to try something different. Something more reliable, and sturdy.
Gareth Southgate has maintained trust in Pickford throughout some difficult periods
Yet throughout all the qualifiers and the warm-up games, Pickford has not once let Southgate down.
Now, following Carlo Ancelotti’s somewhat abrupt departure from Merseyside just before Euro 2020, there’s a new man in charge who will be hoping Pickford can be as reliable for him as he is for Southgate.
Of course that man, in a move which horrified some Evertonians, is a manager well-accustomed to the area – ex-Liverpool boss and 2005 Champions League winner Rafa Benitez.
The Spaniard took up his first day at the office last week as pre-season began in earnest – he will be looking to turn the tide and win over the fans as soon as possible.
Rafa Benitez took up his first day as Everton boss last week after his controversial appointment
And when Pickford returns from a well-deserved summer break, Benitez needs his goalkeeper to be firing on all cylinders again.
In fact, scrap that. Maybe Pickford’s hot-headedness works in a tournament format – and it may explain his downfall over the peaks and troughs of a nine-month season.
For a keeper, he’s still young at 27, and there are characteristics Pickford can still learn: to not always run off adrenaline, and to stay composed and cool whilst maintaining focus.
Because Benitez needs Pickford the marshall. The leader, who so brilliantly guided England’s defence in the past four weeks. And the terrific shot-stopper.
The new Everton boss needs Pickford to be composed – not erratic as seen last season
What the new Toffees manager very much doesn’t need is Pickford, chief error-maker. The erratic Pickford. The unreliable Pickford.
Benitez has shown in the past that he’s not afraid to make quick changes in-between the sticks too. Remember Istanbul hero Jerzy Dudek, who saved two penalties in that shoot-out against AC Milan?
Demoted, to Liverpool No 2, for Pepe Reina just two months later, after Benitez looked at the bigger picture following an error-ridden season by the Pole. He barely featured for the club again.
Now though, roll on August 14. Seeing if one of England’s Euro 2020 heroes can replicate his international form in the Premier League – for a club underperforming compared to transfer expenditure and expectations – will be a fascinating sub-plot for the new campaign ahead.
Benitez showed ruthlessness when dropping Jerzy Dudek (R) after Istanbul for Pepe Reina (L)
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article