MATT BARLOW: Pickford's England spot has never looked more secure

MATT BARLOW: Jordan Pickford’s England spot has never looked more secure… the Everton goalkeeper is getting better with age and can easily pick up 100 international caps

  • Jordan Pickford is continuing to cement his place as England’s No.1 goalkeeper
  • The Everton and Three Lions shot-stopper is only getting better with age
  • We expected perfection from VAR – we haven’t got it: Listen to It’s All Kicking Off

Jordan Pickford’s status as England’s No 1 has never appeared more secure.

The threat of any challenge from Aaron Ramsdale has subsided because he cannot get a game at Arsenal and Nick Pope, overlooked by Gareth Southgate despite his consistent brilliance at Newcastle United, dislocated a shoulder on Saturday.

Dean Henderson has barely played in 2023 because of injuries and, although he is near full fitness once again, any return would dislodge Sam Johnstone from the team at Crystal Palace.

Pickford, meanwhile, is performing better than ever. Southgate’s sidekick Steve Holland was at Nottingham Forest to see him keep a clean sheet for Everton with a display to suggest he is finally mastering the art of concentration.

It has never been his greatest strength. He can be erratic. Sometimes as if bored by a lack of involvement, desperate to make something happen and prove how talented he is.

Jordan Pickford ’s status as England’s No 1 goalkeeper has never appeared more secure

The shot-stopper starred for Everton during their weekend victory against Nottingham Forest

Pickford is performing better than ever for both Everton and England so far this campaign

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At the City Ground, he did not have a save to make until the game was almost over. Then Forest applied late pressure and Pickford was alert, made good decisions and vital contributions. One explosive dash from his line to smother Anthony Elanga as he shaped to shoot was crucial and his kicking was effective as ever.

Sean Dyche is a good manager for goalkeepers. He protects them with a solid defensive unit and does not expose them with a perilously high line and half of the pitch to look after. Under these conditions, confidence grows. It is not by chance Pope excelled under him at Burnley. Nor that Tom Heaton’s international recognition came under his tutelage at Turf Moor.

Just as Jose Mourinho’s goalkeepers would look composed and assured when compared to Arsene Wenger’s, who often looked on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Burnley won well on Saturday but James Trafford, England’s highly-regarded Under 21 goalkeeper, has conceded 32 goals in 14 Premier League games, playing behind a team not designed to defend.

Pickford is more capable than most with the ball at his feet but he is not going to be passing it around in his own six-yard box at Everton. Aesthetics are not central to the recovery process after a 10-point deduction. It is all about desire, spirit and togetherness in the fight to recover lost ground.

Dyche is not about to decline the chance to channel the anger of perceived injustice to bind his players more tightly around his style of play and Pickford is one of his leaders.

Everton are perfectly capable of escaping relegation regardless of the success of any appeal.

Something that will not pass without comment in the red half of Sheffield, where scars of the Carlos Tevez affair led them to accuse the Premier League of doing all they could to preserve the grandees of their competition.

Pickford is more capable than most with the ball at his feet but he is not going to be passing it around in his own six-yard box at Everton, who are sitting 18th in the Premier League table

The threat of any challenge from Aaron Ramsdale (above) to Pickford’s England position has subsided because he cannot get a game at Arsenal, with David Raya taking over his No 1 spot

In 2007, the Blades felt unable to compete against West Ham, home of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Sir Geoff Hurst, despite eventually winning their case and more than £20million compensation. 

This year, it is Everton, football’s ‘School of Science’, Alan Ball, Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and the ‘People’s Club’. Without the lustre of old but with more global prestige and appeal than relegation rivals Burnley, Luton Town or Sheffield United can generate.

None of this is Pickford’s problem though. He has 58 caps in six years since his England debut and could easily double that.

He turns 30 in March, with years of experience behind him, destined for a fourth major tournament, getting better with age and currently under very little threat from anyone else.

Scunthorpe’s happier times 

Happier times beckon at last for Scunthorpe United. After falling from the second tier to the sixth against a backdrop of winding-up orders and rotten owners, they have secured the future of Glanford Park under a not-for-profit company run by fans, club officials and councillors.

The Iron celebrated with a 360-mile round trip and a 5-1 win at Hereford to stay top of the not-very-regionalised National League North.

Walsall’s great FA Cup upset 

Casual reference to Hereford and Newcastle as arguably the greatest FA Cup upset last week drew sharp response from the good people of Walsall, where they are concerned the toppling of Arsenal in 1933 must be vanishing into the mists of time.

Herbert Chapman’s team were considered the finest in the land at the time, on the way to the first of a hat-trick of league titles. Arsenal legend Chapman, nothing if not ahead of his time, made a few changes against opponents from Division Three North, but Cliff Bastin, David Jack and Alex James were all up front. 

Casual reference to Hereford and Newcastle as arguably the greatest FA Cup upset last week drew sharp response from the good people of Walsall

Walsall thrilled 11,000 packed into Fellows Park with a 2-0 win, both goals coming in the second half — the first by Saddlers legend Gilbert Alsop and the second a penalty by Bill Sheppard. 

On the train back to London, Chapman told Tommy Black, who committed the offence for the penalty, that he would never play for him again and promptly sold him to Plymouth Argyle.

Ashley Cole’s reminiscent masterclass shows evolvement 

Footage of Ashley Cole’s masterclass against Cristiano Ronaldo at Euro 2004 has been doing the rounds on social media. Almost 20 years on, it is most striking how Cole wins his tackles without grabbing or pushing Ronaldo. 

Perhaps the practice has evolved in response to those wingers desperate to tumble over any outstretched leg or because they want to turn over possession rather than kick the ball out, but the first instinct of full backs is so often to get hands on and grapple with the winger. 

Cole now has his hands full as part of Wayne Rooney’s coaching team at Birmingham City. 

Ashley Cole has his hands full as part of Wayne Rooney’s coaching team at Birmingham City

Sir Alex Ferguson’s watches Peterborough’s fightback 

Sir Alex Ferguson braved the cold to see son Darren’s Peterborough United summon a midweek fightback from two down against Steve Evans’ in-form Stevenage. 

Having taken a point from one former Posh boss, Fergie Junior knocked another out of the FA Cup on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Grant McCann’s Doncaster. 

Premier League’s global reach 

This week’s illustration of the reach of the Premier League’s international tentacles comes from a brief encounter on the Athens metro with a young Albanian man who was wearing a Southampton tracksuit top because his favourite player is Adam Lallana, now at Brighton, who were in town to play AEK Athens. 


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

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