England number one Jordan Pickford says his tremendous Everton form is feeding into his consistently polished Three Lions displays.
Pickford won his 20th cap in the Three Lions’ 4-0 drubbing of Bulgaria on Saturday – all of his senior England appearances coming since the 25-year-old moved to Goodison Park in summer 2017.
He has kept eight clean sheets for England following Saturday’s encounter. Pickford was tested only intermittently on the way to achieving his latest shutout but when the goalkeeper was called on at a key point in the contest he was equal to the task.
England were leading 1-0 shortly after half-time when Pickford – who has kept 10 clean sheets in his past 15 Premier League games for Everton – repelled a hard-hit drive from Bulgarian forward Wanderson at his near post.
Within 60 seconds Marcus Rashford was fouled in the box and Harry Kane scored from the spot.
It proved the game’s defining passage, with Kane going on to complete his hat-trick and Raheem Sterling also on target.
“It is brilliant coming away when we’ve been doing well for Everton,” Pickford told evertonfc.com.
“Everything for me starts with Everton and doing everything well for my club.
“The rest takes care of itself.
“Then with England, the competition is great and it is a group of top-quality lads and players.
“I closed the angle off well and trusted myself to make the save [from Wanderson].
“It was a decent save – but a training ground save, one you should make.
“But it kept us at 1-0 then we went up the other end and scored straight away.”
Pickford made two more routine stops in the first half on Saturday but was made to work for his shutout when athletically flinging himself to fingertip over a free kick from Galin Ivanov late in the game.
England were in the ascendancy for large swathes of the contest – Gareth Southgate’s side aimed 17 shots to Bulgaria’s four and had 68 per cent possession – leaving Pickford to observe for long periods.
The keeper remained switched on during those quiet times, demonstrating the rising concentration levels he is capable of reaching – in line with the greater calmness Pickford is striving to inject into his game.
“I stay focussed by talking and making sure I am organising everything in front of me,” said Pickford.
“That keeps me in the game and is the reason why I am always talking.
“I am learning more and more about the calm side of my game.
“That is being calm in possession of the football and showing I am not fazed by it [playing from the back] and have the ability to do it.
“It is learning little percentages all the time to become the best I can.”
Pickford’s performances have been viewed through a more critical light since he became his country’s first pick – a by-product of wearing the gloves for your country.
He has appeared galvanised by the scrutiny and insists it is something which does not disturb him.
The player’s consistently sound form supports his assertion. He has kept clean sheets in 40 per cent of his England games and amassed his 20 caps in quick time.
Indeed, should he continue accruing them at the same 10-per-year rate and fulfil his ambition of playing at the elite level well into his thirties, Pickford could conceivably break the caps record held by one of his England goalkeeping predecessors in Peter Shilton.
He is not thinking about surpassing Shilton’s 125 appearances, though, preferring to look only as far as England’s next game against Kosovo on Tuesday – and his return to Everton action at Bournemouth next Sunday.
“I just take it game by game and it is the same at Everton,” added Pickford.
“As long as I do my best for the team every time I play, that is all I care about.
“I don’t mind the scrutiny. It doesn’t bother or affect me at all.
“If your performances are being scrutinised, you have to thrive on that and use it to get better, which is what I am always trying to do."