In Depth

England’s goalkeeper dilemma: should Jordan Pickford be No.1 for Euro 2020?

Gareth Southgate’s first-choice keeper is under pressure from Dean Henderson and Nick Pope

Jordan Pickford’s position as England’s No.1 is under scrutiny once more after the Everton goalkeeper’s inconsistent performance against Manchester United. 

In the 1-1 Premier League draw at Goodison Park on Sunday Pickford was at fault after failing to stop Bruno Fernandes’s long-range effort. However, he redeemed himself with a superb double save from Fernandes and Odion Ighalo in stoppage time. 

Watching on in the Sky Sports studio former United captain Roy Keane was scathing of Pickford’s display and despite the late double save the Irishman did not hold back when giving his opinion of the England keeper.

Keane said: “We give credit where it is due but keepers do that every day of the week. They make the save and get across the goals. Excellent save. 

“But if he doesn’t make the mistake in the first half, you end up winning matches. I am not going to come away praising the goalkeeper for drawing. It’s about winning football matches, surely.

“The bottom line with Pickford, I don’t need to see the stats. I know he’s not a good goalkeeper. He’s not up to it.”

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‘Everyone hates you’

Pickford was also at fault in the 3-1 win over Crystal Palace in February when Christian Benteke’s shot went underneath his leg.

BBC Sport reports that last season the 25-year-old made four errors that led to goals and his temperament was also called into question during the 3-2 loss at Newcastle. 

In an interview with the BBC Pickford said he is not affected by the criticism and believes it’s unfair. 

“Everyone hates you, for some reason, that’s part of being an England player,” said Pickford, who has been capped 24 times at international level.

“I think the press and everybody, the punters - look at Gary Neville - they just want to come for England players. 

“You have got to live with it, you have got to learn. I know what I am capable of and I know what I am good at.

“Look at Joe Hart when he was number one. He got pelters every week. You just keep it away from your head as the only person who can sort things out is yourself as an individual, on the pitch and in training. 

“It’s looking after things on the pitch for Everton that is my main aim. That gets you picked for England. It’s funny because everyone raves about you when you are with England but then you get back to your club and everyone wants to slate you. As a person, I don’t let it affect me.”

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in action for England at Wembley Stadium

Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

World Cup heroics 

There’s no doubt that Pickford has the ability. At the Fifa World Cup in 2018 he was England’s match-winner in the last-16 clash against Colombia. 

Described as the “save of the World Cup” by The Daily Telegraph’s Chris Graham, Pickford somehow kept out Mateus Uribe’s vicious 30-yard volley with a magnificent finger-tip save.

Then in the penalty shoot-out he dived to his right to stop Carlos Bacca’s spot-kick as England progressed to the quarter-finals.  

Pickford was England’s youngest-ever tournament goalkeeper and the form in Russia saw the former Sunderland player linked with big-money moves to Bayern Munich, Man Utd and Chelsea. 

In September 2018 he then committed his future to Everton by signing a new six-year deal at Goodison.

Lacking authority

Since the World Cup in Russia the spotlight has been on Pickford as he aims to keep hold of the No.1 jersey. 

With a few months to go until Euro 2020 England boss Gareth Southgate is keeping a close eye on his squad and on Sunday was at Goodison to see Pickford in action against United. 

No doubt Southgate would have been impressed by Pickford’s double save, but he will also be concerned with the fault made by his first-choice goalkeeper. 

The Times’s Tony Cascarino believes Pickford “lacks the authority” needed to be England’s No.1 this summer. 

Cascarino wrote: “Here’s the positive side of Jordan Pickford as England’s first-choice goalkeeper: you can’t question his performances at major finals for his country. At the last World Cup he was very good. He had a swagger to him and don’t underestimate that. But as we go towards this summer’s Euros you have to be thinking - can we trust him? 

“His performance for Everton against Manchester United yesterday typified his season. The goal he conceded was a bad one. A top-class goalkeeper should be saving that shot from Bruno Fernandes. And there was a certain rashness about a lot of what he did, which even included the double save at the end, though that was him at his best, saving his team.”

Henderson to rival Pickford for the No.1 shirt?

If Pickford isn’t the man to keep goal for England in this summer’s European Championship then who is? 

Sheffield United stopper Dean Henderson, who is on loan from Man Utd, and Burnley’s Nick Pope are two names being mentioned in terms of an England starting place. 

Henderson, 22, had been in superb form in the Blades’s return to the Premier League while Pope has impressed between the sticks at Turf Moor.

Robert O’Connor of i News says Henderson will have watched the Goodison game with interest. Not only could the youngster be a possible replacement for Pickford in an England shirt, but he’s also being talked about as the long-term successor for David De Gea at Old Trafford.

O’Connor said: “If both goalkeepers lose the confidence of their managers - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for De Gea, Southgate for Pickford - 22-year-old Henderson might just be the most ready replacement for either role; capable, dependable, available.”

At Turf Moor, Burnley keeper Pope is also enjoying a strong season and is “hot on Pickford’s heals”, says talkSPORT

However, the radio broadcaster also tipped Henderson to be Pickford’s main competition for the No.1 shirt.

Sean O’Brien said last month: “Henderson is by far and away the standout performer out of the options available to Southgate.”

Pickford, Henderson and Pope will all hope to impress Southgate in the run-up to Euro 2020.

This month the Three Lions play against Italy and Denmark at Wembley then away in Austria in June. Also in June is the final warm-up against Romania at Villa Park. 

At Euro 2020 England are in group D with Croatia, the Czech Republic and the winners of the play-off path C.

Uefa European football championship trophy Euro 2020

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

England’s football fixtures

International friendly games ahead of Euro 2020
  • Friday 27 March: England vs. Italy (Wembley; 8pm live on ITV) 
  • Tuesday 31 March: England vs. Denmark (Wembley; 8pm live on ITV) 
  • Tuesday 2 June: Austria vs. England (Vienna; 7.45pm live on ITV) 
  • Sunday 7 June: England vs. Romania (Villa Park; 6.15pm live on ITV)

England’s Euro 2020 group fixtures

Sunday 14 June 
  • Group D: England vs. Croatia (Wembley; 2pm live on BBC)
Friday 19 June 
  • Group D: England vs. Play-Off Winner C* (Wembley; 8pm live on ITV)
Tuesday 23 June 
  • Group D: Czech Republic vs. England (Wembley; 8pm live on ITV)

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