Jordan Pickford may have already scooped an Everton awards treble - but the Blues’ Player, Players’ Player and Young Player of the Season won’t be resting on his laurels as he looks to cement his World Cup dream.
The 24-year-old goalkeeper believes the England No.1 jersey for this summer’s tournament in Russia is still up for grabs and sees Everton’s remaining games against Southampton and West Ham United as a golden opportunity to make up the mind of Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate.
Southgate handed Pickford his international bow last November as England drew 0-0 with reigning world champions Germany at Wembley, before calling on the Blues stopper once again for a 1-0 victory over Holland in Amsterdam in March.
But with the likes of Stoke City’s Jack Butland, Burnley duo Tom Heaton and Nick Pope, and Joe Hart - his likely opposite number when Everton travel to the London Stadium next weekend - for rivals, Pickford knows he needs to keep up his impressive form if he is to earn his place for the competition opener against Tunisia on 18 June.
If selected, Pickford - who has kept four clean sheets in his last seven outings at club level - will become the Three Lions’ youngest World Cup glovesman, ahead of Ron Springett and Paul Robinson, who were both 26 when they played in the 1962 and 2006 tournaments respectively.
“It would be great [to be number one] but I’ve got to get that first,” Pickford told Friday’s The Everton Show. “I’ve got two tough games left to play for Everton first and I’ll use them to try to put myself in contention.
“I’ve made two appearances now for England, been in against two top opponents and kept two clean sheets, so my name is definitely in the hat. As long as I keep working hard, keep putting in the performances and training hard then hopefully I’ll get the shout.
“I’ve been told if I play I’ll be the youngest England goalkeeper to play at a World Cup so there’s another achievement [to aim for].
“I feel like I’ve worked hard and performed to my best this season and that should give me a good [platform] to be number one.”
Everton’s trip to Southampton back in November ended in a disappointing 4-1 defeat that came just four days before Sam Allardyce was appointed manager at Goodison Park.
Since then, the Toffees have conceded 28 goals in 24 outings - as opposed to 46 in the previous 25.
And Pickford insists it’s a much-improved Blues outfit who will welcome the relegation-threatened Saints this weekend.
Paul Lambert’s side are 18th, a point below Swansea City above them, with three games left to play.
“If you look over the last seven games, I think we’ve had pretty much the same starting 11 - maybe just a couple of changes,” said Pickford. “So we’re starting to get a solid base now as a team and everyone’s working hard.
“We’re performing and that’s why the gaffer’s not been able to change the side - we’re putting in performances week in and week out, getting clean sheets, getting results and, as a group of lads, that’s what you want to be doing.
“It won’t be easy. We went down to their place earlier in the season and they performed well, so we know what qualities they’ve got.
“It’s always hard when teams need to get a result to stay in the league but we’ll perform for the last home game of the season and look to get those three points for the fans.”
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