In Jordan Pickford, Everton have signed a “world-class” shot-stopper with “outrageously good” distribution.
That’s the opinion of former Republic of Ireland international Alan Kelly, the goalkeeper coach who trained and mentored Everton’s new Club-record signing during their time together at Preston North End.
Kelly, who won 34 senior caps for his country, is part of the backroom staff at Deepdale, where Pickford won countless plaudits during a loan spell in the first half of the 2015/16 season.
Kelly has offered some fascinating insight on Everton’s latest recruit, who he believes is an all-round brilliant goalkeeper.
He told evertonfc.com: “The first thing that most people would say about Jordan is his distribution. He’s got as good of a left foot as I have ever seen in any outfield player or goalkeeper. His distribution with his left foot is outrageously good. You saw that a couple of times last year in the Premier League where he pinged balls out to Jermain Defoe to put him through on goal. That is a real weapon and it’s a bonus which any manager can take advantage of.
“He made some unbelievable, world-class saves for us. In those six months, he gained us anywhere up to 15 points. Although people will say that a goalkeeper is the bedrock of a team and their job is to make saves, he made some exceptional stops which stood out.
“There was one game where 15 crosses were put into our box. Jordan caught 13 of them and punched the other two to safety. It was one of the best performances I have seen, in terms of making the right decisions at the right times.
“In a goalkeeper, you are looking for that all-round ability. Can you come for crosses, distribute, make saves? Jordan does all of that.”
Pickford played 29 times for Preston in the Championship and such was the level of his displays, Sunderland cut short his season-long loan spell in January so he could return and fight for the number-one spot at the Stadium of Light.
“That, pretty much, is the top and bottom of it!” added Kelly.
“Any professional footballer will tell you that when a new signing comes in, they are being assessed straight away by all their teammates. You know even after a day whether they are up to the standard required - and that was certainly the case with Jordan.
“He’s a great lad with a bubbly personality. He likes a bit of banter and craic. He’s very good in a dressing room environment and that’s one of his characteristics - he fits in with everybody. When he came to us, straight away he got immersed in the dressing room culture.
“He has a willingness to work and is an exceptional talent, so when you’ve got somebody like that, it’s a joy as a coach to train that type of player. Everybody enjoyed the six months he was with us and hopefully we helped with his progression to where he is today.”
Kelly, who was part of the Ireland squad at the 1994 and 2002 World Cups, says it’s only a matter of time before Pickford becomes England’s established first-choice goalkeeper.
The Blues’ new glovesman is currently with England Under-21s at the European Championships but is yet to make his senior international debut.
“Absolutely - and I’ve no qualms in making that statement,” added Kelly when asked if Pickford could make the step up. “He’s got everything to go and fulfil that. He’s proved it with the way he’s played in the Premier League.
“Again, you look at that progression with how he has built his career. There has always been that desire to do well for the club he is representing and that desire to improve and get to the next level. That won’t change and by playing well for Everton, he’ll want to use that as a springboard to become England’s number one.”