STARSPORT’S Ian Murtagh witnessed first hand Jordan Pickford’s remarkable rise to stardom at hometown club Sunderland, reported on his World Cup heroics in Russia and on Saturday, saw the Everton keeper endure a nightmare at St James’s Park.
With his status as England’s No. 1 now the subject of heated debate, here’s ten things Pickford must do if he wants to hold onto his Three Lions shirt.
1) Cool it
Pickford’s a crowdpleaser – but he’s also a crowdbaiter. And there’s nothing more he enjoys than winding up the Toon Army.
But his antics came back to haunt him as Everton collapsed to a 3-2 defeat at Newcastle after being two goals up.
And how the Geordies loved rubbing Pickford’s nose in it, giving back to him what he’d earlier been only too willing to dish out to them.
2) Forget his Mackem roots
Pundit Ian Wright got it spot on when he said on Match Of The Day “he’s not playing for Sunderland anymore.”
And several Everton fans took to social media to remind Pickford where his loyalties should lie.
Pickford is justifiably proud of where he comes from – but so are hundreds of other professional footballers and they don’t let it interfere with their game.
3) Take your foot off the gas
Fans love players who perform at 100mph…but not when they’re between the posts.
Pickford is like a whirling dervish, fidgeting, stomping around his goalmouth, shouting at himself.
There are times when he needs to calm down, stay composed and keep a cool head.
Qualities which weren’t on display at St James’ Park.
4) You’re a keeper first, a performer second
They say the best keepers make things look so simple.
Perhaps Pickford should study old footage of players such as Pat Jennings, Ray Clemence, Peter Shilton and the late, great Gordon Banks.
Showing off is one thing but not when the risk factor increases.
Nine times out of ten, Pickford would have collected that Matt Ritchie cross directed towards Salomon Rondon with the minimum of fuss but he tried to be a little too clever, missed it and ended up conceding a penalty.
5) Stay still
Sounds like stupid advice for a keeper but there are times when a keeper needs to delay his decision-making for as long as possible.
Pickford was badly at fault for Ayoze Perez’s first goal on Saturday. Some say he spilled Miguel Almiron’s shot because the power of it caught him by surprise.
But the effort was virtually straight at him. Had he been a little more composed and sure-footed, maybe he would have got a stronger hand to the ball, pushing it away from Perez instead of into his path.
6) Remember what you’re good at
Gareth Southgate picked Pickford because he was so impressed with his footballing skills and they remain better than the vast majority of keepers.
But some of his dead ball kicking has been wayward – against Liverpool at least two goal kicks drifted into touch and it was the same against Newcastle.
Those mistakes weren’t down to poor technique, more lapses of concentration.
7) Make the most of those strengths
Let’s not forget Pickford remains an outstanding keeper with extraordinary reflexes.
His record saving penalty kicks is top drawer and even on Saturday, one first half save to foil Perez was stunning, diving low to his left to smother the ball.
There are few better shot-stoppers in the Premier League and that’s why his place at both club and country level are probably not under threat just yet.
8) Stay strong
No worries on this count.
Pickford probably did let the jeering, the booing and the mocking get to him at SJP – a place he regards as enemy territory.
But his confidence will remain intact.
The 25-year-old still has many fans. Chairman of the Pickford Supporters Club is the man himself.
9) Everyone loves a loudmouth
Well, at least defenders love it when it comes to the man behind him.
England players spoke of Pickford’s excellent communication skills last summer and even when he’s having a bad day himself, that doesn’t stop him barking out orders to his team-mates.
Pickford may not be blooming this season – but he’s no shrinking violet either.
10) And please don’t change too much
After his exploits in Russia, Pickford was a national treasure.
Everyone loved that cheeky smile, the connection with fans and that supreme self-confidence.
Even on the final whistle at Newcastle following one of the most torrid afternoons of his career, he winked at Toon fans and broke into a weak smile after initially looking as if he’d become embroiled in some heated exchanges with them.
Verdict: It’s all a question of balance with Pickford. He’s supremely talented and a natural entertainer but he must learn to curb some of his more extravagant instincts while not shedding that in-build confidence which has made him into what he is today.