Jordan Pickford proved his doubters wrong against Burnley on Saturday with an immense display to help Everton take a point from Turf Moor.
The England international has missed just one Premier League fixture since joining the Goodison Park natives from boyhood side Sunderland in 2017 in a deal that could reach £30million, coming in last month’s 2-1 loss at Newcastle United.
Carlo Ancelotti explained ahead of taking to the field at St. James’ Park that he had merely opted to rest Pickford, despite the 26-year-old facing increasing criticism from all angles after his challenge on Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk during the Merseyside Derby.
A host of players and pundits threw the book at Pickford for his collision with Van Dijk, which Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl suggested should have seen the shot-stopper shown a straight red card.
“I think yes. I also had a discussion about this. It was a horrible tackle, to be honest,” he said, via quotes by Goal. “We have more often the situation now that the game goes on, although it is offside, and then some duels happen that don’t have to happen normally, this is an issue.
“You cannot go like this into a duel. This is an absolutely disastrous tackle, to be honest. I think sure, it can be a red card in the end. When you only see the tackle, [it] was horrible.”
England boss Gareth Southgate later came out in support of Pickford, stating that he will remain the Three Lions’ first-choice ‘keeper, while Neville Southall went as far as suggesting there is a “concerted effort” to force him out of the national team.
“I think there’s been a concerted effort by the press to get him out the England team and I think it always happens when you become an England player,” Southall told the Gary Newborn Sports Show.
“There’s nobody better to play for England than Jordan Pickford. He’s had a couple of dodgy times, but I can’t think of a goalkeeper in the world who hasn’t. He’s come through it and he’s doing okay.”
Pickford was at the top of his game on Saturday to thwart Burnley in their efforts to move out of the Premier League relegation places, providing a display that more than proved his doubters wrong.
The £100,000-per-week ‘keeper could do little to deny Robbie Brady from opening the scoring in the third minute when the midfielder used Michael Keane to shield his strike, but he stood firm from there on out to stop Sean Dyche’s side doubling their advantage.
Pickford again came up trumps in the second period with a vital stop to deny Chris Wood another go-ahead goal for Burnley, as the Clarets piled on the pressure following Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s late first-half equaliser.
If Southgate was half as impressed with Pickford as former Three Lions forward Rodney Marsh was, the doubt over who England’s number one is was over.
Taking to Twitter, Marsh noted: “I’m always harsh on goalkeepers, but Pickford makes a terrific crucial save just before HT to avoid going two down. [He was] off his line like lightning. Well played young man.”
If Pickford can continue to keep his game at that level, his doubters will struggle to find a stick to beat him with again.