Everton goalkeeping legend Neville Southall believes Blues Player Of The Season Jordan Pickford is the right choice to help England progress further in the World Cup – as he backed the 24-year-old to cement his spot as number one for Club and country for “years to come”.
Pickford, the youngest goalkeeper to play for England at a World Cup finals, started every group stage game as the Three Lions qualified for the knockout stages of the tournament.
Next up for Gareth Southgate’s men is a last-16 showdown with Colombia on Tuesday night in Moscow.
And Southall, Everton’s record appearance holder and widely regarded as one of the finest goalkeepers to grace the game, believes Pickford boasts the attributes to help a youthful England side continue their run in Russia.
“His distribution is good, his communication is good and I think he is decent all round,” said the Blues great, who won two league titles, two FA Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup during a trophy-laden 17-year career at Everton.
“He’s only young. If you look at the England squad, I think the majority of them are all quite young.
“They’re going through the ages of learning so he’s no different to any of them. If you look at what Jordan’s done, it’s quite a remarkable rise from Sunderland where he was getting pelted every week with all sorts of shots, to having very little to do at a World Cup.
“You’ve got to look at the strides he’s made. When I look at his first season with Everton, I think he did very well.
“You feel safe and secure with him and I think that’s the biggest compliment you can pay him. I think he’s done really, really well.
“I think it will be interesting next season. I’m hoping that, with Everton, he doesn’t have as much to do. With that, he’ll learn that if he’s got to make a save in the 89th minute, he’ll be ready to do it and he’ll make it. Then you’ll have a sign of a truly great goalkeeper.
“And if you asked any English player, manager, coach and fan what they wanted to do to start at the World Cup, it would be to get out of the group and qualify. They’ve done that, they’ve got Colombia next which is a winnable game and I still think the World Cup is up for grabs because there’s no-one playing outstandingly well.”
After signing from Sunderland last summer for a British-record transfer fee for a goalkeeper, Pickford went on to enjoy a standout debut season for Everton.
He played every minute of every Premier League game – one of only 10 top-flight players to do so in 2017/18 – and made the fourth-highest number of saves (121).
The 24-year-old’s impressive campaign was emphasised at the Club’s End of Season awards, when he picked up the Player, Young Player and Players’ Player of the Season prizes.
Southall, who made 751 appearances for Everton, believes the 24-year-old has the talent and mental strength to remain as the Toffees’ – and England’s – number one for the next decade.
“He can be what he wants to be,” said the former Wales international. “I don’t see any limitations with him. If he wants to stay here for 10 years, it’s down to Jordan Pickford to make sure he stays here for 10 years, nobody else. If he wants to be here for many years, he’s got the ability to do that.
“If he wants to be the best in the world, that’s up to him. He can take it by the horns and go, ‘Right, I’m going be Everton’s and England’s number one for the next 10 years, nobody’s going to get a look in’.
“I think he’s got a good mentality for that and there’s no reason why he can’t achieve what he wants to achieve. I think we’ll have a decent goalkeeper for the next 10 years, with a bit of luck.”
Pickford’s immediate priority will be England’s clash with Colombia on Tuesday, as the Three Lions aim to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 2006.
Southall says Southgate’s side will have too much for their opponents in Moscow and believes they will go even deeper into the tournament.
“Colombia won’t sit back, they’ll come and attack you and leave gaps for the England players,” he said.
“I expect England to win and get to the semi-finals. Once you get to the knockout stages, England have got a good, solid defence, I think and they’ve got goalscorers.
“In the first game, Jordan Pickford could have had a deck chair, the second game was the same.
“This one (the 1-0 loss to Belgium on Thursday), he had a little more to do, so he’s had a nice build-up. But the more the tournament goes on, the better teams you play, the more he’s going to come into it.
“Gareth Southgate obviously believes in him – if he didn’t, he wouldn’t have played all three games so far. And he’ll play on Tuesday.
“And with just four games to go including the final… any team in the world can win four games on the bounce. There’s no point being negative, be positive. I haven’t seen a team yet where you would go ‘I hope we don’t play them’.
“And if I was Jordan, I’d be going ‘I’ll show how good I am’.”