Gareth Southgate expects Jordan Pickford to get “even better” following the Everton goalkeeper’s “incredible” first two years as England’s number one.
Pickford is in line to claim his 20th England cap when the Three Lions tackle Bulgaria in a European Championship qualifying match at Wembley on Saturday.
The 25-year-old made his senior international debut less than two years ago – shutting out then world champions Germany in a 0-0 draw – and in the intervening period has established himself as his country’s undisputed first-choice keeper.
Pickford, who has kept 10 clean sheets in his past 15 Premier League outings for Everton, revealed this week how talks with Goodison Park boss Marco Silva have led to him becoming more “calm and mature” on the field.
The former Sunderland player specifically identified his increased cool when “playing out from the back with my distribution and game-management”.
And England manager Southgate says Pickford's view chimes with what he has seen in training at St. George’s Park this week.
“He has absolutely [improved that facet of his game], I have noticed him being a lot calmer receiving the ball,” Southgate told evertonfc.com.
“That gives him more time to make the decision to play out, which opens up a better pass for him.
“He has definitely shown that considered trait.
“He has thought about it a lot and spoken to the manager at his club about it – and we’ve discussed it with him here.
“It is important for him [to continue improving]. We have two other goalkeepers – more than two [in contention for squad places] – but the other two here [Tom Heaton and Nick Pope] have been outstanding this week.”
Pickford won his first England cap in November 2017 – five months after joining Everton from hometown team Sunderland.
He was given his Under-21 debut by Southgate four years ago this month and made nine of his 14 Young Lions' appearances under the charge of the current senior boss.
Southgate, then, is well positioned to assess the advances in Pickford’s game and it was instructive to hear him insist the Everton player boasts significant scope for improvement.
A former England centre-half, Southgate played a lot of his international football in front of David Seaman.
Ex-Arsenal player Seaman is broadly regarded as one of the finest keepers to emerge from this country.
He amassed a wealth of club honours and played 75 times for England, featuring in four major tournaments.
At Pickford’s age, though, Seaman had represented his country only once – in a friendly game against Saudi Arabia.
Pickford, who is on a run of 80 straight top-flight games for Everton, has already been part of an England side which reached a World Cup semi-final.
“Jordan’s ambition should be to go on from where he is,” added Southgate.
“He has had an incredible impact for England in the past two years.
“He has made big saves and allowed us to play from the back in an expansive way.
“He knew there were areas that could be even better – and can be even better - and he has made some steps towards those in the first few games of this season, definitely.”