Sam Allardyce has praised Sunderland youngster Jordan Pickford, but played down rumours that he could be recalled in January.
Pickford is currently on loan at Preston North End in the Championship and is on the verge of a clean sheet record, such has been the quality of his performances in between the sticks at Deepdale.
The 21-year-old's scintillating form has provoked speculation from the media that Allardyce could recall him to the Stadium of Light in January, but the manager has since suggested that his problems for the Black Cats do not reside in goal.
Pickford impressing his parent club
Speaking to the Sunderland Echo this week, Allardyce commented on the progress being made by Pickford at Preston, having visited Deepdale on Tuesday to watch him in action against Nottingham Forest.
The Lilywhites emerged 1-0 winners on the day, with another side drawing a blank against the 21-year-old, and Allardyce admitted that "it was nice to see him playing first team football" with Preston, especially because he is doing so "on a regular basis" with them.
The manager continued to speak about Pickford's loan, saying that it's helping him gain valuable experience which is adding to the "huge amount of league games" that he's already played at his "young" age, something Allardyce described as "a huge benefit to him."
However, whilst "he's got great league experience," the manager was quick to point out that none of that is at Premier League "level" as of "yet" as he went on to play down recall rumours.
Loan recall unlikely with bigger problems elsewhere on the pitch
When drawn upon the possibility of Pickford being recalled in the New Year by the media, Allardyce was quick to play down this link.
Sunderland are expected to be very busy in the January transfer window as the manager looks to make his mark on the squad to help them stay up, but bringing back the young goalkeeper is not on his shopping list, so it seems.
The 61-year-old said that there is plenty of time for the club "to consider what [they] might do" regarding Pickford, however, he believes that the team have "bigger problems...in front of the goalkeeper," and thus strengthening this area by bringing back the youngster may be unnecessary.
If anything, it could hinder his development as he may struggle to establish himself as the back-up stopper, never mind Sunderland's number one, with Allardyce adding that "the two goalies [Sunderland have] in Costel [Pantilimon] and Vito [Mannone]" are not a problem.
Still, the manager was keen to ensure he was not doubting the Black Cats' rising talent, encouraging Pickford to "continue to do the job" at Preston as he possesses the potential to "be Sunderland's regular goalkeeper one day" - although, "whether [that is] under [Allardyce's] time or not" remains unclear, and only "time will tell."
The manager is full of belief in the 21-year-old though, saying that, whilst "the step-up is huge" from the second tier to the top flight, it is one that Pickford "might be capable of making," given the promise he is showing right now.