Stuart Lauds Pickford's 'Huge Achievement'

by Peter Lennox
@Everton

Graham Stuart hailed Jordan Pickford’s “huge achievement” after the Everton stopper become the youngest goalkeeper to represent England at a World Cup finals in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Tunisia on Monday night.

The former Blues striker and 1995 FA Cup winner also praised the 24-year-old’s “composed and mature performance” as Gareth Southgate’s side kicked off their campaign in Russia with a dramatic victory in Volgograd.

Skipper Harry Kane headed a stoppage-time winner for England, having seen his 12-minute opener cancelled out by Ferjani Sassi’s 35th-minute penalty.

England dominated proceedings for long periods, with Tunisia only sporadically threatening going forward.

Stuart says Pickford – who eclipsed Ron Springett and Paul Robinson as England’s youngest World Cup glovesman, both were 26 when they played in the 1962 and 2006 tournaments respectively – was an assured and commanding presence as the last line of the Three Lions’ defence.


“I don’t think anything fazes Jordan, even a World Cup game,” Stuart said. “It wasn’t the busiest night of his life but he was composed when he was needed.

“He was very, very close to the penalty, too. He did everything he could and got a fingertip to it.

“It was a difficult night because, as a goalkeeper, when you’re so dominant as a team, you’ve got to make sure your concentration is right up there. Jordan’s was and it was another mature performance. He’s got confidence – he’s got that aura about him.

“Becoming our youngest ‘keeper at a World Cup is a huge achievement, too. And he deserves it.

“To come to Everton for a British record fee for a goalkeeper and to settle in and perform like he has and clear the decks in terms of the end of season awards, tells you all you need to know about him.

“He is a complete goalkeeper. He has got everything – he is confident, his shot stopping’s excellent, and, of course, his distribution is excellent.”

Indeed, Stuart believes Pickford’s confidence on the ball and ability to set England on the attack with his pinpoint long-range passing was an important factor in getting the nod as his country's number one.

“Gareth Southgate’s made it very clear, with us playing the three at the back, the emphasis is on playing out from defence”, said the Everton Club Ambassador. “Your goalkeeper is integral part of that.

“Jordan is excellent, his left foot is as good as it gets in the Premier League. He’s composed, he is confident enough to play the right passes at the right time. Gareth’s watched him over the course of the season – recognised what a very good goalkeeper he is – with the bonus that his distribution is also outstanding.”


The victory over Tunisia puts England in a strong position to qualify for last 16, with Panama next up for the Three Lions on Sunday afternoon (1pm kick-off).

Stuart believes Pickford and England will head into the game in Nizhny Novgorod in buoyant mood after the last-gasp victory.

“Jordan will be delighted to get off to a winning start and get that first game under his belt,” he said. “To get that late goal is huge for the team’s confidence and belief.

“We dominated the game - especially in the first half - but when you dominate the game like that, you’ve got make sure you’re two or three-nil up, because we easily could have been.

“I think that’s one thing that Gareth will say – we’ve got to become more ruthless.

“But, on the whole, we definitely deserved the win and I’m sure Jordan and the boys can’t wait for Sunday now.”




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