Next season could be a pivotal moment in Jordan Pickford’s career, with the aim to establish himself as Sunderland’s first-choice goalkeeper and knock Vito Mannone out of position.
Making his second Premier League start for the Black Cats - a 2-2 draw at Watford on Sunday - he looked comfortable and the control of his area effectively, and signed off the game with a couple of sufficient saves.
Pickford started the season on loan at Present North End; he was then subsequently recalled back to Wearside when Costel Pantilimon joined Watford during the January transfer window. He made his debut for the club in the FA Cup defeat at Arsenal and remained in goal for the game against Tottenham Hotspur.
His moved to the Lilywhites was his sixth loan club in his short career, following short spells at Darlington, Alfreton Town, Burton Albion, Carlisle United and Bradford City. His time in away from Sunderland has benefited him well and, when put in pressured situations in the top flight, he was then able to cope and was ‘ready for the next step.’
The first experience in the Premier League at a young age couldn't have been more challenging, but even after the 4-1 scoreline at White Hart Lane; he emerged with a great amount of credit for his string of saves.
“It was frustrating at Spurs because I couldn’t have done much about the goals. Spurs were an in-form side, so I had to be proud with how I played even though I didn’t get a clean sheet that day,” said Pickford.
Since the defeats he has been on the bench, desperately wanting to get on the field to prove his worth, and will spend the summer continuing to improve and to make Sam Allardyce to start to ponder his pecking order for the goalkeeper position.
Throughout the season, Mannone did little wrong as Sunderland dug themselves out of a bad situation to safety in the final few games of the season. But if Pickford is to be regarded as the future of the club’s goalkeeping position, there will be a time when he will be entrusted with the starting position but he will have to be ‘patient' and make sure he is 'ready for the next step'.
Next stepping stone in the plan
“Next season is a big chance because I feel like I am ready to make that step to playing in the side,” said Pickford. “I just have to keep working hard in training. If he picks me, he picks me. I will be patient, and make sure I’m ready for that step.”
While the majority of Sunderland team-mates will start their holidays, Pickford will travel to the Toulon Tournament in France with England Under-21s, along with team-mate Duncan Watmore.
“After Toulon, hopefully, I will come back and have done well, then I can have a break before going back for pre-season flying. Then next season, I want to try to get as many starts as I can.”