Jordan Pickford Exclusive: Why 'Anything Is Achievable' At Everton

Neville Southall, in his pomp, wanted his club and international managers onside and to feel an inner glow.

Applying Southall’s principle, Pickford can sweep his gaze 360 degrees and reach a positive conclusion.

“I am in a brilliant place,” confirms this resilient and reflective 26-year-old.

“I feel I have been in a good period for a while.

“But you are never the finished article – you can’t be happy staying at a certain level.

“You need to be pushed to be a better keeper and to always demand more from yourself.

“I want to get better and better and consistently perform.”

To the other two men whose opinions count for the most.

The list of attributes Carlo Ancelotti identifies in Pickford is extensive.

It includes the goalkeeper’s “mentality, instinct, character, quality, motivation and personality”.

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04:14

JORDAN PICKFORD: MY TOP FIVE EVERTON SAVES

Everton and England number one analyses memorable top-flight stops.


Gareth Southgate, the England manager, has selected Pickford 26 times, stretching back to a debut in November 2017.

No keeper, maintained Southgate prior to November’s international fixtures, “is challenging seriously to push him out of that position”.

Pickford will talk about the two kingmakers in his professional life.

He’ll explain the “calm demeanour” he is adopting in high-stakes situations and point to sporting counterparts who set an example with their clear mindedness amid organised mayhem.

Pickford accepts the acute scrutiny attached to being England number one and he’ll open up on that, too.

First, though, to the measures he’s implementing in a quest for ongoing improvement.
“One percenters,” Pickford calls them.

He refers to “tiny technical and tactical” adjustments – “fine details” refined in concert with Everton goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly, whose football knowledge, insists Pickford, “is second to none”.

“As a goalkeeper,” says Pickford, stripping his job down to its most fundamental demand, “you have to give yourself the opportunity to be in the best position possible.
“The main thing is getting in the way of the ball and making saves.

“So you work to make it easier to get in the way of the ball.”

Pickford introduced another change in the first half of 2020.

He has confidants at former club Sunderland “who brought me through and helped me reach this level” and for any sportsperson insight from those who know their games inside out is invaluable.

Pickford’s Everton and England teammate Michael Keane, for example, leans on old Manchester United youth-team coach Paul McGuinness for advice.

But since “May or June” Pickford has been supplementing that counsel from ex-coaches with visits to a sports psychologist.

“We talk about everything,” he says.

“We cover a lot of bases: mentality and how to be better in all aspects.

“He can help me develop my thinking… and learn how to cope with various things and get through sticky patches.

“I want to be the best goalkeeper for me.

“And when I am on top form it gives the lads the strongest opportunity to win games, which puts smiles on fans’ faces.

“It’s something mainly for me – but it affects a lot of other things, which help Everton.

“We speak once week, sometimes once a fortnight.

“He is always a phone call away, or if we need to do some proper work, we meet up.

“One of my friends used him, so I knew he had a good reputation, and I felt it was something I needed for me to improve.”


When Ancelotti was reeling off Pickford’s qualities and arrived at the player’s instinct, he felt it necessary to expand.

“He has to use his instinct, which is really good,” said Ancelotti. “He makes fantastic saves because when he reacts [in the moment], he’s really top, top.”

The Italian boss’ view – essentially urging Pickford to trust a characteristic which sets him apart – would chime with Southall, who is bugged by a wider tendency to tell players what they can’t do, rather than focusing on strengths.

“You can’t take away what has got you to where you are,” agrees Pickford.

“It is about adding to what got you there, to become even better.”

One of those elements Pickford wanted to add was a cool disposition.

Hearing him talk so earnestly and judiciously on a range of subjects – particularly the commitment to finessing his on-pitch character – invites a question over whether he’s abandoned the happy-go-lucky personality that bounced into Goodison Park more than three years ago.

Refreshingly, the answer is no – and delivered with an ear-to-ear smile.

“There’s no point getting up in the morning if you can’t have a laugh,” says Pickford.

“You have to enjoy what you are doing.

“We have a good dressing room, full of great lads.

“You have to have fun.

“But I always say, you can have fun, but when you need to work, you work.”

The tweak to Pickford’s mindset specifically concerns his thought process when making decisions.

Choosing the best option – Stay on my goalline or rush for the ball? Punch or catch? – represents a vital component of the job, so the change is significant.

Pickford observes how the cream of the golfing crop keep it together if they shank one off the tee.

Pickford is fascinated, too, by Rafael Nadal, the 20-times Grand Slam tennis champion, who settles himself by bouncing the ball 10-12 times before every serve.

“You have to work off your instinct but it is about having a calm demeanour in that moment to make the right decision,” says Pickford.

“There are techniques to help you be calmer and that is something I have been working on.

“I am a little bit calmer in decision-making, I think.

“I still have to be demanding of my teammates but never demand in the wrong way.

“I demand to try to help us be our best on the pitch.

“From my position, you can see a lot, so you try to help by giving information and reminders.

“So, I am demanding on that side but I feel a lot calmer in my decisions.

“I watch pretty much everything sports-wise on TV.

“Every sportsperson at their best has a calmness about them.

“Golfers are the prime example – there are a few hotheads but the best players in the world are all calm.

“If they play a bad shot, they know they can recover.

“Another good example is Rafa Nadal. I’ve watched him for years, growing up.

“The time he takes for his serves, it is all routine and designed for calmness.

“You can take those aspects from other sports and bring them into football.

“It is about training your brain and being able to get better.”

Pickford’s body shape has changed since joining Everton, too.

Close up, you encounter a broad figure, whose leg muscles are prominent. His cheekbones are visible and upper body chiselled.

“I reached a stage where I knew I needed to be happy in my body,” says Pickford.

“I am working hard in the gym, a lot of leg power and balance work.

“You have to be right off the pitch and do everything to be at your peak on gameday.”

When Pickford was first rested as part of manager Ancelotti’s goalkeeper rotation for a game at Newcastle United in November, the move prompted widespread intrigue. But it is policy the England international respects and understands.

“The manager’s knowledge of the game and what he has achieved are brilliant,” says Pickford.

“I have complete respect for him. He does everything for the right reason.


“With any of the lads [rested, left out or nudged to improve], there is a reason behind it.

“It is the manager saying, he wants more because of what he thinks of me.

“If he doesn’t say anything, that is probably when you know you have a problem.

“You respect his decisions.”

That said, Pickford laughs and concedes, “I’d play a match every day if I could”.

“You never want to recharge,” he explains.

“I just want to go and play football.  Hunger is never a question for me.

“That is why it is the manager’s choice and it [rest at Newcastle, which broke Pickford’s run of 120 straight Premier League starts for Everton] was a great decision, I think.

“Everything he told me about why he did it, he came out and said publicly.

“It shows his honesty. You can believe in what he is saying.”

When Pickford relates his experience of watching from the bench, he unwittingly discloses how Everton has grabbed him.

He recalls being consumed by nerves when understudying Italian Vito Mannone as Sunderland pieced together a late-season relegation escape in 2015/16,

A dyed-in-the wool Mackem, Pickford’s apprehension was understandable. But it is no different watching the side he joined in the summer of 2017.

“You are on the edge of your seat, wanting the team to do its best, but you can’t help,” says Pickford.

“I get more nervous than when I play.

“Everton is a massive club, with a lot of history.

“Everyone at the Club wants to be part of a winning and successful team.

“It is my fourth season and we haven’t quite got where the Club or players want to be.

“We don’t want to be feeling relaxed and settling for being a normal top-10 team.

“We know how passionate the fans are, we are not stupid as players, we know how much the badge means to Evertonians.

“We want to give something back to them.

“That means us aspiring to be the best we possibly can.

“Anything is achievable.

“It is about being consistent and having a winning mentality in every game.

“Always helping each other in games and on the training pitch, always demanding to be better as individuals and a group.”

Pickford began this season with a flawless contribution to Everton’s 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur.

Of the 15 games he’s played in all competitions, Everton have won 10 and drawn two.

Nevertheless, between that shutout at Spurs and the return from November’s international break – a period which included four very good displays for England – Pickford had to contend with a spotlight trained on his form.

It is pertinent to reiterate Pickford’s age – 26 – at this juncture.

Of the 75 England caps won by David Seaman, three came before the former Arsenal goalkeeper’s 27th birthday.

Peter Shilton turned 27 having acquired 21 of his eventual 125 caps.

“It [focus on performances] is part of being England’s number one,” says Pickford.

“The person in that position has always received a lot of scrutiny.

“It is a different aspect you have to learn and a different pressure you have to be able to cope with.

“You are always under pressure but you have to deal with that by performing every week.

“We are all human and sometimes you have a dip in form but that is part of being a footballer.

“You can’t be perfect every single week.

“When times are hard, you have to graft and dig in to come out the other side better.

“I am improving and there is a lot to learn.

“I like that – I don’t want to feel comfortable, I want to be pushed.”


Pickford married Megan back in March, a register office wedding in advance of a ceremony overseas in 2021, travel relaxations permitting.

The couple’s son, Arlo, will be two in February and, agrees Pickford, affords some perspective on football – albeit, it often requires a conscious effort to adopt a wider view.

“He’s not interested in how I’ve got on at football – but ask me in a couple of years and it will be different,” laughs Pickford.

“You can’t go home and bring the house down because you’ve lost.

“It always hurts but when you have a little one you have to show you are happy, you can’t be sad.

“Being a dad has changed my life, I think.

“He is flying up now, I am playing football with him and he is rough and ready and brilliant to have about.

“He is getting to that age where you can mess about and see the fun side of him.

“My wife knows how demanding football is and what is needed to perform on the training pitch every day. 

“If I perform it is a happy house and she is brilliant with that.”

Pickford earned the opening nine of his 14 England Under-21 caps under Southgate and has represented his country at every age-group level from Under-16 upwards.

His closest rivals for the senior jersey are Burnley’s Nick Pope and Dean Henderson of Manchester United.

But Southgate’s public support of Pickford, with the 2021 European Championship heaving into view, was unequivocal.

“It was nice for the gaffer to come out and say that,” says Pickford.

“Popey and Hendo are two very good goalkeepers and there is a lot of competition.

“But I have been in the England system since I was a very young kid.

“They’ve had faith in me and I’ve never let them down.

“That is down to my hard work as well.

“The gaffer is brilliant at that [supporting players], he sticks by you.”

Pickford’s acute understanding of goalkeeping, coupled with a broader tactical appreciation born of an enquiring mind and years of watching games unfold under his nose, would, one day, add value to a television studio.

“I wouldn’t know how to tell a centre-forward what they are doing wrong,” he counters with a smile.

Pickford concurs nonetheless that fellow keepers analysing games – Rob Green and David Preece are two relatively recent and very astute additions to the pundit roster – provide specialist insight.

“When a goalkeeper speaks about the position, it makes sense,” says Pickford.

“If you haven’t been a keeper, you might speak about certain things or decisions without seeing everything.

“There might have been three or four stages that led to something happening.

“But our job as footballers is to perform on the pitch, then people won’t talk about you so much.”

Pickford considers his “maturity and what I have learned about myself” the biggest strands of improvement since joining Everton.

“I am only 26 but more than 300 professional games in – so that shows I am always learning and getting better,” he reasons.

The next targets on the list?

“Being the best I can be and staying consistent throughout the season,” replies Pickford.

“I want to put a smile on everyone’s faces.”

Pickford’s own beaming features speak of professional contentment and reflect the feelings of Messrs Ancelotti and Southgate towards their outstanding goalkeeper.