JORDAN Pickford was England's penalty hero last night as his spot-kick heroics against Colombia helped secure a place in the World Cup quarter-finals. 

Last night's penalty save was another major landmark for Pickford, a Wearsider whose career has already taken him to Everton and England via Darlington and Sunderland’s academy. Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson charts the making of England’s number one


The Northern Echo: File photo dated 26-12-2016 of Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday December 28, 2016. Sunderland are awaiting news on Jordan Pickford's fitness after the in-form goalkeeper injured his knee on Boxing D

Born and raised in Washington, Pickford joined Sunderland’s academy set-up at the age of eight. He played for all of the club’s junior teams, while attending St Robert of Newminster Catholic School in Washington.

He worked under a number of coaches at the Academy of Light, but by the time he was signing his first professional contract in 2011, he had been taken under the wing of former academy director Kevin Ball.

His talent had also been spotted by England’s junior coaches, and he was involved in every representative team from Under-16 level onwards.

Kevin Ball: “I was fortunate enough to coach both Jordan (Pickford) and Jordan Henderson at really prominent times in their careers, and the thing that immediately stood out with both of them was their focus.

“It was obvious from the outset that Jordan (Pickford) had loads of talent, but he also had the right attitude and without that, you’ll get nowhere.

“Right from the very first time we worked together, he didn’t just want to bob along and do the minimum that was required. He needed challenging. If it was too easy, he would get frustrated.

“Even though it was clear he was going to be a keeper, we used to play him at centre-back so he understood what it was like for a keeper coming for crosses over the top of other players. Maybe that’s why he’s so good with his feet now.

“As a lad, he was fantastic to coach, although it wasn’t always easy for either of us. We would clash, in the sense that we would disagree on things, and we would debate parts of his game. But the one thing I think we both knew was that we had a mutual respect for each other.

“As a club, we should be extremely proud of the way he’s developed, not just on the pitch, but off it too. He’s a credit to Sunderland, as a club and a city.

“I still speak to him regularly, and he hasn’t changed. I’ll get a text off him saying, ‘Hello Kevin, when are we going to meet up to have a coffee?’ Then we’ll go and sit in the local garden centre at Penshaw and chew the fat for an hour. I couldn’t be prouder to watch him in the World Cup.”

Jordan Pickford: “I couldn’t have achieved anything without Sunderland’s academy. It’s a hard-working area, and the academy has always tried to reflect that.

“Even doing the little jobs properly, you could never get away with anything. I can’t remember what I did wrong, but at one point, Bally put me on ‘the jobs’ for two weeks – the boots, the balls, the games room, everything. They had to be done perfectly, he wouldn’t let you get away with anything.

“I remember one day when I was young, my cousins came up from Kent, and we went to the Charlie Hurley Centre waiting for autographs from Kevin Phillips and that, but the main one was Bally. I’ve still got that. I showed Bally it and he was laughing his head off! Being in the academy from so young, I’d see so many faces coming through. I’d always be a bit star-struck.”


The Northern Echo: EARLY DAYS: Jordan Pickford represents Darlington in a game against Ebbsfleet United

Pickford’s first taste of senior football came at the start of 2012 when he joined Darlington on loan. An initial one-month agreement signed in January was extended to the end of April, and Pickford made 17 starts for Darlington boss Craig Liddle as Quakers finished in the relegation places in the Conference.

Craig Liddle: “I first got to know Jordan when I did some coaching with him with the Under-12s at Sunderland. I was still playing at the time, and was working part-time with Sunderland. Even at such a young age, it was obvious he was a really special talent.

“When we signed him at Darlington, we were under a transfer embargo, so we were only able to sign young, Under-19s players. It worked out great, but to be honest, if the embargo hadn’t been there, I would probably have gone for a more experienced option. As it was, the next best thing was Jordan.

“He was 17 at the time, and you’re obviously worried about throwing a young kid like that in goal. But he was always a really confident lad and he fitted in well straight away.

“He made his debut in front of about 7,000 people against Fleetwood. Jamie Vardy was meant to be in the Fleetwood team, but I think he pulled out injured. We lost 1-0, but about ten minutes into the game, I remember Jordan piling through a crowd of players to catch a corner. I thought, ‘You’ll do for me’.

“He made mistakes, but you’ve got to expect that from a young keeper. The most impressive thing was the way in which he didn’t let the odd mistake bother him. He had confidence in his own ability, and that was impressive in someone so young.

“He also wasn’t afraid to give lads almost twice his age an earful if he thought they were doing something wrong. He’d be yelling at the defenders playing in front of him, he certainly wasn’t frightened of them.

“Above all else, he was always a lovely lad, and he’s still the same down-to-earth character today. I saw him at the Football Writers’ Awards earlier this year, and he hadn’t changed a bit.”


The Northern Echo: Sunderland stopper Jordan Pickford looks set to join Everton

After playing for Darlington, Pickford also had loan spells at Alfreton Town, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Bradford City and Preston North End.

He was especially impressive at Championship side Preston, and his performances at Deepdale persuaded Sam Allardyce to recall him to Wearside in January 2016.

He made his senior Sunderland debut in an FA Cup third-round defeat at Arsenal, and was promoted to the role of established number one under David Moyes at the start of the following campaign.

David Moyes: “It isn’t always wise to make comparisons between players, but when people talk about the early part of Jordan’s career, I think about Joe Hart.

“I was going to sign Joe Hart when he was at Shrewsbury, so I watched his development really closely, his build, his size. When he started for us at Sunderland, Jordan went down that road.

“For me, (in his first full season with Sunderland) he was the best newcomer in the Premier League. Dele Alli won the Young Player of the Year award, and deservedly so, but as a boy who hadn’t really been involved in the Premier League before, Jordan was by miles the best young newcomer.

“As a young goalkeeper, in only his first season in the Premier League, he was magnificent. He’s a bit old-fashioned in some ways, and he makes saves you don’t expect goalkeepers to make.

“For a young goalkeeper to do what he did in his first year takes some doing. Even David de Gea, when he came from Spain, (Sir) Alex (Ferguson) had to keep persevering with him. He had a bad year, but he kept playing him. Jordan went in and nearly made no mistakes at all.”


The Northern Echo:

Despite Pickford’s heroics between the sticks, Sunderland were relegated in the 2016-17 season, and at the end of the campaign, he was sold to Everton for a total fee of £30m. He became the third most expensive goalkeeper in history, and the most expensive British goalkeeper of all time.

He was voted Everton’s Player of the Year last season, and attributes much of his continued improvement over the last 12 months to the input of goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson, who works with him at both Everton and England.

Jordan Pickford: “Marge (Martyn Margetson) has been my goalkeeping coach at Everton for the last six months, and he’s been a big help to me. We work on a lot of stuff at Everton, so when I join up with England, I know what’s expected of me.

“It helps (Margetson being involved with England). It probably gives me an advantage over the other keepers because I know what he wants. I know how he works and what he wants in training.

“It’s all about basics with him. We do a lot of work on hand positions, and basics are the key for a goalkeeper. I’ll ask him questions about what I can do better, and we’ll work on things together. It’s worked well so far.

“I definitely think I’m a better keeper now than I’ve ever been. I’m coming off the back of a good season with Everton and I’ve always been confident in what I can do.

“Whatever I’ve done in my career, I’ve tried to keep things simple. As a goalkeeper, your mind-set has got to be strong. You can’t let anything affect you, on or off the pitch.

“That is one strong side of me, mentally. I don’t let anything affect me. It’s the same size goal, the same size pitch, no matter who you’re playing. It’s great playing at the big stadiums I get to play in now, but I don’t get that nervous. I just want to become the best I can be, and hopefully help my team win the game.”


The Northern Echo: INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Jordan Pickford speaks to the media during an interview session at St George's Park

Having played under Gareth Southgate with England Under-21s, Pickford made his senior international debut against Germany last November. His debut could hardly have gone any better as he kept a clean sheet in a goalless draw at Wembley.

He won his second cap in a 1-0 win over Holland, and has appeared in all of England's matches in Russia.

Jordan Pickford: “As a young lad, you always dream of playing in a World Cup finals. The first one I can remember is the South Korea and Japan one. I was young, but I remember Ronaldinho against (David) Seaman, unfortunately.

“I remember going to school, and we were allowed to wear our England shirts for the Brazil game. It’s probably not the best memory to have as an England keeper, but I remember that game.

“(I've always said) it would be amazing to play in a World Cup myself, it would be the best thing that has ever happened to me.

“There’s a lot of competition for the goalkeeping spot now, and that can only be a good thing. People talk about our lack of caps, but look at our experience in the Premier League.

“I played 38 games (last) season, and numerous more in cups and in the Europa League. That’s where you get your experience from.”

(This is an updated version of a story that first appeared online in June)