Everton goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly says Jordan Pickford’s immaculate European Championship performances are testament to his calm, determined mentality and an unrelenting desire to maximise his ability.
Kelly underlined Pickford’s impressive tournament displays are a continuation of his fine form for Everton during the calendar year – declaring his belief the 27-year-old has risen to the responsibility of being one of the “main men” for Club and country.
Pickford has kept four consecutive clean sheets in Euro 2020, extending his flawless record with a superb display in Tuesday's 2-0 European Championship victory over Germany at Wembley.
“He’s played a lot of football – particularly now at the highest level – and he has such a memory bank of situations he can call upon,” Kelly told evertonfc.com.
“You’re seeing the maturity in his performances and his game-management.
“We know how good he is with his feet and we know he can make match-winning saves.
“He’s also accepted that responsibility of being the main man and being one of the top performers at the Club, when people look up to you, almost in a captain-type role. That responsibility sits very nicely with him now.
“I think that’s one thing most people will have heard with games played behind-closed-doors – Jordan Pickford barking out instructions, trying to help the team before situations have developed.
“He’s been fantastic in the Euros. I don’t think that’s a surprise to Evertonians because, since the turn of the year, his performances have been first-class.
“He’s got that understanding of the game and he doesn’t go looking for work. When the ball goes into his sphere, he deals with it, and he’s done that fantastically well.”
Kelly revealed his admiration for how Pickford has dealt with the scrutiny which comes from being England’s premier goalkeeper.
“He’s probably the one person who gets more scrutiny in an England shirt than anyone I’ve known in a long time,” Kelly added.
“The way he deals with that, doesn’t let it affect him and goes out in perform...he lets his actions speaks louder than words. That’s a fantastic trait he has.
“When you look at his career path, signing for Everton, being the Club’s Player of the Year in 2017/18, then all the hype of World Cup in 2018 when he played so well, then scoring a penalty for England in the Nations League.
“He’s had a hell of a last four years, where it’s been virtually 24/7 football.
“That gets lost on people. Mentally, goalkeeper is the most pressurised position on the pitch. If you make a mistake, you’ll get isolated, you’re the No.1, there’s nobody there to protect you but yourself.
“That’s probably one of the reasons we work well together. I think he called on my experience [as a professional goalkeeper] because I’ve walked in his shoes.
“An endorsement of his character is he rides those little mistakes he might have made. He keeps a level head now when he’s having good performances, as he would have if he had a not-so good performance.
“He’s on a really good path and has been in a really rich vein of form this calendar year.”
In an interview with the Everton Matchday Programme in December last year, Pickford revealed he has been seeing a sports psychologist since summer 2020.
He explained how the sessions “have help me develop my thinking… and learn how to cope with various things and get through sticky patches”.
Kelly says taking this step is further evidence of Pickford’s commitment to self-improvement.
“The top, top players and athletes look for marginal gains,” he added.
“They look to utilise other people… and it’s been well documented with Jordan how working with a sports psychologist has really helped him.
“It’s something I really encouraged. Anything that allows you to improve and get better… by having that professional attitude to your craft and your sport, then you’re giving yourself the best chance to perform. That’s what Jordan’s done.
“That might be through goalkeeping training, team training, how he eats, how he prepares for games and recovers after matches, and what he does away from the pitch as well.
“All those things have come together at the right time, and that is reflected in his performances.
“I take my hat off to Jordan. The fella’s desire to improve and train as he plays, it motivates me and it motivates the people around him.”