IT is a day that even those involved will probably not remember. When Jordan Pickford was six, he was dragged along to a playing field in Washington to watch his older brother play football. On the adjoining pitch, a local under-sevens team was short of a goalkeeper.

Pickford was not really interested in joining a team, but he had played in goal a few times while his brother kicked a ball around in the street, so rather than standing on the sidelines for an hour or so, he decided he might as well join in. Little did he know that the journey to becoming England’s number one had begun.

“I was probably a year or so younger than them, but used to go in goal when I was knocking about playing in the street, so I just joined in,” said the Wearsider. “Ever since then, I’ve been in goal.

“That team was Washington Envelopes, my first club. I didn’t really think much about playing with the older lads, I just liked being brave and getting in front of the football.

“I started playing in the league for them and I remember playing every Saturday and then when the summer came around, we’d play in midweek too. The training pitch was a local secondary school because there wasn’t an actual associated junior club, but that didn’t matter at the time. I just enjoyed playing really.”

Pickford’s performances did not go unnoticed, and within a year-and-a-half of playing his first junior game in Washington, he was approached by Sunderland’s scouting team. The club sent a representative to his house to meet his parents, and he was offered a place on the development squad. That turned into a six-week trial, and at the age of eight, he became a fully-fledged member of Sunderland’s academy.

He would go on to make his first-team debut in January 2016 at the age of 17, following loan spells at a number of clubs including Darlington and Carlisle United, but he admits that in the early days of his development on Wearside, he did not always follow the rules. And while he might have been a goalkeeper with Sunderland, that was not always the case elsewhere.

“I must confess, I did used to play for the school and tried to keep it quiet,” he said. “Especially because I used to play outfield and I’d love getting stuck in. There were some good school teams around the area, so I used to love that.

“One of my best mates was a lad called Jordan Lavender who I went all the way through Sunderland with, and we were playing against his school. I still remember the moment to this day, hitting the best shot I’ve ever hit in my life and it going top bins. We still talk about that today.

“I think playing outfield in those games, along with the street football and the work we’d do with the ball at Sunderland, helped me to develop my game as a goalkeeper and get used to the ball.”

From an early age, Pickford’s powerful personality shone through, but while he has always been a lively character, he quickly appreciated the need to take things seriously when it came to his footballing education.

“Being at Sunderland since I was eight years old, I enjoyed it, but you had to earn your place for the next year,” he said. “There were times as I got older when I’d want to get out of training, but my parents would make sure I went and looking back, that was so important.

“You couldn’t mess around. Even though you’re a kid, you had to take on board what the coaches want from you, so it got serious quite early.”

Since leaving Sunderland in the summer of 2017, Pickford’s career has reached stratospheric levels. He has established himself as one of the leading goalkeepers in the Premier League with Everton, and won 42 international caps, starring in World Cup finals and playing a pivotal role in England’s run to the final of this summer’s European Championships.

Last Friday, he was part of the England side that thrashed Albania 5-0 to move to the brink of qualifying for next winter’s World Cup in Qatar, with his save from Myrto Uzuni when the score was still 1-0 showcasing his lightning-quick reflexes and ability to successfully patrol his 18-yard box.

He has worked with some of the leading goalkeeping coaches in the country, but he will never forget the influence of the people who helped him along the way when he was starting out in the North-East.

“From an early age, there were lots of coaches I’ve worked with who have had such a big influence on me,” he said.

“Mark Prudhoe was my goalkeeping coach and is one who I still speak to today.

“And at the Sunderland academy, people like Kevin Ball, Elliott Dickman and Ged McNamee, whenever I’m back home, I always try to pop in and see them.”

* A version of this interview appeared in the match programme for England’s game against Albania at Wembley on Friday night