In an interview that first appeared in the Official Matchday Programme for Everton's home clash with Brighton, Jordan Pickford sits down to discuss his battle to be the best, the importance of connections and camaraderie, his relationships with staff behind the scenes, falling in love with the culture of Everton and why he remains steadfast in his belief that brighter times are ahead for the Blues…
Now well into his seventh season as an Everton player, Jordan Pickford feels like part of the Blues’ most-treasured furniture.
A modern-day goalkeeper, cut from old-school cloth, those feelings of affection are reciprocated by Pickford, who places importance on connection and camaraderie in and around his working environment.
Unsurprising, then, that he is one of the most frequent visitors in the Kit Room at Finch Farm and has long-standing bonds with several members of staff behind the scenes who, he says, helped him deeply understand a culture that he has fallen in love with.
“I really enjoy those relationships - they’re important to me,” reflects the 29-year-old goalkeeper, who made his 250th appearance against Burnley on Wednesday night. “We have a bit of banter, I give them a bit of stick and they can be a bit ruthless back at times! It’s good, I really enjoy that craic.
“They’re real people and they’re real conversations. That’s what it should be about. It’s important to get to know the place when you come in and I love hearing stories of what has gone before.
“They have shared a lot of those over the years, like the Gazza stories and the times the Club was at Bellefield.
“For me it’s about getting a bit of that history. Obviously, Everton has huge history, that is there for all to see in terms of trophies and icons, but also hearing about the behind-the-scenes football side that the outside world doesn’t really see. Hearing those stories, that’s how you really learn about what kind of place this is and the culture that exists here.
“I enjoy coming in and living it with people, because we all want this club to push on.”
Another of those figures, Pickford reveals, was the Club’s late Chairman, Bill Kenwright CBE.
“It was a sad week leading into the West Ham game,” the goalkeeper admits. “We’ve lost a man who supported this club all his life and fought for everything for Everton over nearly 20 years as Chairman.
“He helped bring me to Everton and I will always be grateful for that.
“He was always brilliant with me. He would never interfere, but you'd always get the occasional text message from him whether it was a good or bad performance. If you passed him down a corridor at Goodison, he’d stop and have a chat with you. He was always caring, thoughtful of you, ask how your family are doing. He was a man who cared and the reaction to his passing from everyone in the football world tells you just how much he was respected.”
Pickford’s numbers and achievements speak for themselves since arriving at Goodison Park from Sunderland for an initial fee of £25million, potentially rising to £30million, a move that saw him become Britain’s most-expensive goalkeeper.
Since his Toffees debut in 2017, only one player in the division has played more Premier League matches than Pickford's 227 and, in that period, only Lukasz Fabianski (683) has recorded more saves than England’s No.1.
There is hard evidence to suggest he is getting better, too. Pickford set a new personal best for his highest number of Premier League saves made in a single campaign in 2022/23 (124), while also creating a new league record for the highest number of saves in a single game without conceding by producing eight stops in the goalless draw with Liverpool at Goodison Park.
On the international stage, he holds the record of accumulating the most England caps ever by a player while playing for Everton , while having an integral role as the Three Lions reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and the final of the delayed 2020 EUROs.
Yet, the scrutiny on his position — somehow — remains relentless.
“The scrutiny is always there, I think it’s part of the role of being an England player, regardless of position, but as a goalkeeper there’s always going to be that bit more,” says Pickford. “It’s about how you deal with yourself on and off the pitch.
“I just concentrate on giving my all for Everton, when I do all I can for the Club, the England stuff takes care of itself.
“I don’t look into any of the talk, I just look forward and let the pack chase me.
“I will keep moving forward.”
The ironclad mindset developed by Pickford is undoubtedly one of the key ingredients to his success and consistency. But while negative external noise fails to register on his radar, he appreciates the unwavering support he receives from Evertonians.
“Obviously, I don’t go on social media but I know the Evertonians have my back,” he explains. “I think we have a good bond with each other.
“They know I wear this shirt with pride and give my all for them every time I’m on the pitch. I’m in my seventh season here now and I know what this club is all about and what the people want from us… The minimum is to leave everything out there on a matchday, give your all. I will always give that and I think that is why they will back me all the way.
“You’re always going to get that noise from outside. The position we’ve been in over the past couple of years doesn’t help that. When I signed for the Club we were fighting for Europe and that’s the type of club we are but we’ve found ourselves in difficult times and we’ve had to battle hard.
“Of course, this Club wants to be higher up the table and be more successful looking to the future. We should be aiming higher looking forward - and we are doing that.”
Pressed on why he believes it’s a relationship that works so well, he continues: “Passion. That’s the word. Evertonians are incredibly passionate and I think they see that I’m a passionate footballer.
“We’ve got to make Goodison a really difficult place to come to again, then take that feeling away from home. Everyone knows what kind of atmosphere Goodison can generate. I first felt it when I played for Sunderland and, honestly, it’s unbelievable. It’s daunting.
“It’s big for me to have that connection and be engaged with the supporters. If we win on the pitch, we’re winning for them. If we win, everyone goes home happy, or goes for a drink afterwards to celebrate and the weekend is a good one.
“I know so many Evertonians live for us playing on a Saturday and that’s our responsibility - to perform for them.”
Amidst another wave of speculation regarding the long-term future of Pickford, the Washington-born shot-stopper penned a new contract with Everton in February this year, keeping him at this club until the end of June 2027.
Speaking at the time, he referenced his ambition to build a legacy at Goodison Park and his desire to be spoken about in the same breath as Neville Southall, as one of the best goalkeepers to have played for the Blues.
And, despite a testing past two seasons, Pickford remains steadfast in his ambitions and insists he remains optimistic with regards to the future of the Club.
“I think the new contract takes me to 10 years at the Club so hopefully I can have a testimonial here!” he says, with a smile.
“I’ve said before, I want to build a legacy but I’d like that to include winning a trophy.
“To achieve that as a group, to bring success back here… That’s what we want.
“I really enjoy it here, knowing what the Club is all about and now my son loves coming to the games and he knows what it’s all about now as well. I’m in a good place.”
His four-year-old son, Arlo, is indeed a regular at Goodison nowadays and an avid supporter of his father’s Everton side.
Pickford and his wife, Megan, welcomed their second child, Ostara, over the summer and, as they adapt to life as a family of four, the Blues’ goalkeeper says he couldn’t feel more settled in the north west.
“We’re really happy here,” he says. “Everton is such a special club to me, having been here since I was 22 and my family are really happy, too.
“Having a family of my own now, obviously, you just want them to be happy and to give them the best childhood and the best opportunities possible.
“My lad started school in September and he’s more aware of it all now. To have him coming to the games and being involved is just another bonus for me. It’s great.”
On the pitch, there are plenty of signs to feed the optimism of Pickford, who remains acutely aware of his responsibility in helping to continuously drive high standards as a senior member of the squad.
Unquestionably, Everton are beginning to look more resilient, while adding the cutting edge in both boxes that saw promising early-season performances slip by without the warranted points return.
The 1-0 victory at West Ham United last weekend saw the Toffees grab a second clean sheet in three matches on their way to becoming the first side to stop the Hammers from scoring in a Premier League game at the London Stadium in 2023, ending a run of 14 consecutive home games with at least one goal for David Moyes’ side.
Zoom out further and Everton have lost just three of their past 15 away trips under Sean Dyche.
“The manager has got us doing the basics really well,” explains Pickford. “He had to strip it back and his methods are something I enjoy, I like what he’s brought to us as a group.
“I’ve tried to improve under every manager I’ve worked with and the current manager is no different.
“Ultimately, it’s on us as players. The sessions have been really good but it’s on us to make sure we’re giving it our all and getting better, whether you are playing or not.
“We all have a job to do.
On the Blues’ early-season form, he continues: “Sometimes you’d rather nick one 1-0 and not play the best but we’ve had the opposite a few times this season. The performances have been there. It’s just been those little errors that we need to iron out as a group, take more care and focus more but there are signs that is turning.
“Our xG that has been spoken about a lot is there for everyone to see but, as the manager says, as a group we need to be more clinical in both boxes because that’s where games are won and lost.
“We’ve got to keep doing the right things and applying ourselves as we have been doing.
“There is genuine belief here and we have to constantly keep pushing ourselves to get better.”
One of the contributing factors to Everton’s improved resistance has been the budding central-defensive partnership of James Tarkowski and Jarrad Branthwaite, who have started together in the past eight Premier League games.
Experienced campaigner Tarkowski, the only outfield player in the Premier League to play every minute of last season, is once again leading the way for blocks this campaign (16), having registered 36 more than his closest competitor last term. He also sits fourth in the current standings for aerial battles won (32).
Alongside him, Branthwaite, hailed as “a very quick learner” by Assistant Manager Ian Woan earlier this week, has been another stand-out performer at the tender age of 21.
“Jarrad been great,” says Pickford. “He’s done his work away, going out on loan to Blackburn and then PSV Eindhoven last season. I believe it’s harder to go straight into a Premier League team from youth level or a lower league team, like Carlisle, so you have to go out and cross those bridges to be better ready for Premier League football.
“He’s in the England Under-21s set up as well, which is by no means a given and shows the level of his performances as well as the obvious talent he’s got.
“He’s doing it on the biggest stage now, playing in the Premier League.
“He’s excelling and long may it continue.”