Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has revealed that his time in non-league football played a big role in his development as a player and as a person.
While at former club Sunderland, Pickford spent time on loan at Darlington and Alfreton Town in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
The 23-year-old has since developed into an established Premier League goalkeeper, and the England Under-21 international has spoken glowingly of his time in non-league.
Pickford told Everton TV:
“It was just the chance to play men’s football. I learned quite a lot getting battered by fully-grown blokes! You would come for crosses and catch an elbow in the face. But that’s what you want.
“When you are that young, you want that experience. You see lads literally playing for their livelihoods or paying for their mortgages and stuff. It was great to go and learn your trade in that environment.”
Pickford also spent time on loan with Football League clubs Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Bradford City and Preston North End while coming through the ranks at Sunderland.
The goalkeeper then became Sunderland’s first-choice stopper for the 2016-17 campaign, and an impressive year at the Stadium of Light saw Everton pay £30m to bring him to Goodison Park during the summer transfer window.
Pickford is currently with the England squad preparing for their final 2018 World Cup qualifier away to Lithuania on Sunday night.