Pickford, Holgate Out Of England Games

by Paul McNamara

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has withdrawn from the England squad after suffering a muscle injury playing for the Blues.

Pickford’s exceptional early season form following his summer move from Sunderland won him a Three Lions call up for forthcoming World Cup qualifying games against Malta and Slovakia.

It was the first time the Wearsider had been named in a full England squad, albeit he was summoned as a replacement for Southampton number one Fraser Forster for clashes with Scotland and Spain last November.

Pickford is yet to be capped by his country’s senior team but would have expected to vie for a starting place this week with regular keeper Joe Hart, Stoke’s Jack Butland and Tom Heaton of Burnley.

His international ambitions are now on hold, however, with the FA confirming Pickford has returned to his Club for treatment.

An FA statement said: “Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has left the England camp and returned to Everton.

“Having reported to St. George’s Park on Sunday evening, the 23-year-old underwent an assessment on a muscle injury sustained playing for his club.

“After discussions between England and Everton medics, it was decided it was in the player’s best interests to return to Finch Farm for further treatment.

“Gareth Southgate will now prepare for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia with the remaining three goalkeepers in his 27-man squad.”

Pickford has represented England at every age group from Under-15 through to Under-21.

He completed his move to Everton in June while at the European Under-21 Championship in Poland, where England reached the semi-final before suffering a penalty shootout defeat by Germany.

Pickford went a Club-record 352 minutes without conceding a goal after making his competitive Toffees debut in last month’s Europa League third qualifying round home victory over MFK Ružomberok.

He has kept four clean sheets in seven games and last week crucially saved a penalty from striker Ahmed Said as Everton sealed progress into the Europa League group stage with a draw at Hajduk Split.

Mason Holgate, meanwhile, has withdrawn from the England Under-21s squad due to a minor ankle problem.

The young Lions launch their European Championship qualifying campaign in Holland on Friday, before taking on Latvia at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium next Tuesday.

Midfielder James McCarthy is also set to miss Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifying matches against Georgia and Serbia.

The 26-year-old was picked in manager Martin O'Neill's 39-man squad for the meeting with the Georgians in Tbilisi on Saturday and next Tuesday's Dublin clash with fellow Group D leaders Serbia.

But the knee injury which has prevented McCarthy from featuring for Everton this season has cost the former Wigan man the opportunity to be included in O'Neill's trimmed 25-man party.


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