Pickford Aiming To Become An Everton Legend

Jordan Pickford is determined to continue improving as he bids to establish himself as an “Everton legend”.

Goalkeeper Pickford landed all three blue riband prizes at the Club's end-of-season awards ceremony following a tremendous first campaign at Goodison Park.

The 24-year-old’s form for the Blues also earned him his first full England recognition, with Pickford’s national profile rocketing following his prominent role in the Three Lions’ run to the summer’s World Cup semi-finals.

Pickford acknowledges his elevated status results in his performances being subjected to a heightened degree of scrutiny.

But the Wearsider insists any pressure he feels is purely internal. And seeing a banner unfurled in honour of Neville Southall – twice a title winner with Everton and, at the summit of his powers, one of the world's best goalkeepers – at last week’s game against West Ham United further fuelled Pickford’s ambition to write his name into the Club’s annals.

“It was my dream to play in a World Cup and I knew that if I got the opportunity I would take it and play well…it changes your life and now there is a lot of expectancy to perform week in, week out,” said Pickford.

“It just makes we want to grow and become better and better. There is more pressure on me now but I’ll deal with it, I’ll become a better player and goalkeeper.

“I saw the banner come out last week. I’ve got great respect for Neville Southall and Tim Howard was here 10 years and cemented his status, as well.

“That’s what I need to do – I need to knuckle down, work hard and hopefully become an Everton legend.”

Pickford’s breadth of qualities was the decisive factor in him claiming the gloves for his country in the Russian finals. His agility and authority impressed last term, while the goalkeeper's range of distribution is arguably unmatched among his Premier League peers.

He has already struck 151 passes this season – to add to 1,162 last time round – and completed six sweeper clearances, fewer only than Watford’s Ben Foster among top-flight keepers.

And Pickford is confident he is working with a manager and coaching team who can help him further refine his game.

One of Marco Silva’s first moves after being appointed Everton boss was to implement a fresh training programme, which has met with uniform approval from his players.

“We are on the pitch every day and always have our hard days on Tuesday and Wednesday, then Thursday and Friday you come down but are doing a lot of set-pieces and tactical work,” said Pickford, who will return to the scene of his Sunderland debut in an FA Cup tie in January 2016 when Everton play Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

"The first two days are tough but it’s a good training week and it’s new to a lot of us.

“When the gaffer gives you a day off, you have to take advantage of the downtime and recharge your batteries. The training regime is new, so you are adapting to that.

“It’s been a big change and he has brought in new staff and a new keeper coach [Hugo Oliveira]. 

“So, you have to adapt to that and be fresh for the games. It’s all about learning and it’s good.

“I never tend to put pressure on myself. If I keep my basics right, train well and play well, then everything should be sound and I will only get better and better.”

Pickford’s 2017-18 campaign finished with England’s World Cup third-place play-off game against Belgium on July 14, more than 11 months after he started his season in Everton’s Europa League tie at Ruzomberok.

He nevertheless insisted on reporting back to USM Finch Farm ahead of schedule and is now setting his sights on reaching the heights scaled by the world’s pre-eminent goalkeepers – with Manchester United number one David de Gea's consistent brilliance setting the benchmark.

“I cut my holiday short to come in early and make sure I was available for selection for the first home game,” said Pickford, who has played every minute of Everton’s Premier League matches since signing from Sunderland and was last term's Goodison player, players' player and young player of the year.

"It’s always going to be a little more difficult [returning after the rest of the squad] because you are not going to be up to speed… but mentally I’m strong and it’s about performing week, in week out.

“I think De Gea is the best in the world right now. At the level I’m at, you want to be the best in the world.

"You can only get better by playing in games, making saves and putting in man-of-the-match performances.

"I’ve got to knuckle down and get better and better and the only way you can do that is by performing in games.

“If you are making saves, you might only need one goal at the other end.

"As keepers, we’ve got to keep the lads in it. Hopefully people in front of you are doing their jobs but when we are called upon, we need to be making crucial saves at crucial times. It’s a very important position.”