Ahead of Everton’s crunch clash with Crystal Palace tonight (Thursday), Jordan Pickford sat down with former Blues goalkeeper and USMNT legend Tim Howard to discuss a range of topics, including how he prepares for specific opponents, the qualities of captain Seamus Coleman, becoming a leader himself, and the passion of Evertonians hitting "new extremes" in recent weeks...
TH: Jordan - looking at the impact of Frank Lampard since he came in earlier this year... It was a tough job coming into a club in a low point but what was his first message to you as a team and what sort of influence has he had so far?
JP: Obviously, everyone knew when he came in the career he had as a player and the respect he's been shown around the place has been great. We knew what he wanted from us from day one. We work hard, we enjoy working hard and, when the time is right, we have fun around each other after training is done. It's a really good environment, a good football environment. He's brought that feel-good factor. The position we were in when he arrived was difficult but we feel good now and we're ready for two massive games.
TH: I thought Frank was the right man for the job but, of course, you need the results to get everybody on your side. I wanted to talk about your personal form, because it makes me smile! Goalkeepers have to act like they've been there and seen everything, whether it's after a big save or a mistake... You are exuding that confidence, that good arrogance, for me. I know from the time I've spent with you in the past that you're a confident guy, but are you feeling that extra bit at the moment?
JP: I know I'm in a good place. I know I'm on a good run of form and I think I've been in decent form for the past 18 months. But it's all about having that consistency. You know yourself, there's a level of confidence you want but you don't want to let that get too high, you have to maintain a level head and continue to performing for the team. When called upon, you have to be ready to make saves - that's my job and my role in this team. But, yes, it's always a nice feeling when you pull off a worldie now and then!
TH: I was on air during the home win over Chelsea and I laughed at how good your saves were - first the scrambling one from Azpilicueta and then taking one in the face from Rüdiger from the corner. I saw you gave a cheeky grin and I think you knew they were huge saves! When you're in the zone, from a goalkeeper's perspective, I know you're trying to slow the game down and read the game quickly, trying to pick up things from what's in front of you, like the attackers, their back-lifts etc. I'm curious about your training habits... Goalkeepers down the years have always done different things. Do things change for you in training - when things are going really well and when your form has dipped a bit - or do try to keep things the same?
JP: For me, it's whatever Kels [Goalkeeping Coach, Alan Kelly] does. We tend to do a lot on the opposition - what the opposing team is going to bring to the table on a matchday and if they do a lot of something, for example, cut-backs or long-range shots. But, on a form level, I just make sure I train at 100 per cent every day and that I never have a day where I take my foot off the gas. I'm giving it my all and that's how I've been since I was a kid. I haven't changed that. I always like having a bit of fun as well. As goalkeepers, you've got to help your fellow goalkeepers by serving, so I don't mind putting a few in the top bins and having a bit of that fun factor in training, as well as working hard! That's the way I like to train. The group of goalkeepers we have with Kels at the minute, we've got that good bond together - we have fun but we work really hard, so it's a good place to be.
TH: You've got a hell of a left foot, so I would hate to have to train with you - I can imagine you thumping a few into the top corners! I wanted to ask you about one of your teammates next... Seamus Coleman has been a brilliant captain for Everton, he's been there for so long and been an incredible servant for the Club. He's exactly what you want from a captain - he leads from the front, but he also can't go on forever. When I look around the Everton squad, you, for me, stand out as the next captain of Everton. Is that a role that you would embrace?
JP: Yes, I like to think I show my leadership skills quite well on the pitch. I'm always trying my best to help my teammates. You see I'm a very vocal character on the pitch and that's just trying to give help and guidance. As a goalkeeper, you don't want the ball next to your goal all of the time, you want it as far away as possible. I was lucky enough to be captain at Burnley and I felt very privileged to do that. But, as I always say, Seamus is captain but he can't just be captain by himself, he has to have leaders around him. Hopefully he feels like I'm someone who helps in that respect. He's got other lads who help him, too. Seamus is brilliant for us and he's been a servant for so many years. He knows the Club inside out.
TH: Your career so far is so impressive - for club and also country, with a World Cup semi-final and European Championships final under your belt. I understand everyone always wants to look up and never down but I wondered about your emotions around the current picture at Everton. If you were able to help save Everton from relegation - is that something that would give you a sense of pride, or is it a case of getting it done and dusted and never thinking about it again?
JP: It's a bit of both. I was in this position - but I wasn't playing, I was on the bench - when I was at Sunderland and we stayed up. Everton, as a club, should never be in this position, but the reality is we are. When I was at Sunderland, that feeling of getting over the line and that buzz of staying up as a team was amazing because it gives you a confidence that you're capable of anything going forward. A relegation battle is difficult, so to be able to fight and show character as a team, then I think that would just boost confidence for next season. Fingers crossed we can get what we need and come through it. For me, it would be important to enjoy the moment of getting out of the relegation battle but we know there's plenty of work to do.
TH: When I'm on TV over here in the States, we have spoken a lot this season about Everton finding that switch, because there were teams down the bottom who you thought would expect to be there, or are used to that feeling, but Everton Football Club is not. I think there was a switch from the players, probably before that Manchester United game, but also from the fans. The Evertonians... I played in front of them for 10 years and I really couldn't sing their praises highly enough, but what I've seen from them in the past month - everything they've done - that's changed. You guys must have sensed that as well? How has it been?
JP: It's next level, it really is. Like you said there, you played in front of them for 10 years so you know just how much passion they have as a group of fans. It's massive. But, these past four weeks, it has been taken to another extreme. It's great as players in the bus, hearing the noise, the songs, seeing the smoke grenades and smelling the fireworks... The passion they have gives you an added drive and it's been a massive benefit for us. We know we've got Palace on Thursday and it's going to be exactly the same. If you don't thrive off stuff like that, then I don't think you should play football - because that's pure passion for you.