Sunderland Echo - - Football -

Wearsider Jordan Pick­ford has helped change the per­cep­tion of English goal­keep­ers from “jokes” to play­mak­ers, ac­cord­ing to FIFA’s goal­keep­ing ex­pert Pas­cal Zu­ber­buh­ler.

The for­mer Switzer­land in­ter­na­tional joined FIFA’s tech­ni­cal group in Novem­ber af­ter a two-year stint as Derby’s goal­keeper coach.

As FIFA’s goal­keeper ex­pert, Zu­ber­buh­ler has been study­ing keepers at Russia 2018 to help im­prove coach­ing stan­dards and he has dis­cov­ered a sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment: no­body is laugh­ing at Eng­land keepers any­more.

“Do you know why this joke has ended? It’s the first time Eng­land sup­port­ers have had no chants pick­ing on their goal­keeper,” the 47-year-old said.

“It was al­ways a fash­ion in Eng­land – in the sta­dium, in the pubs, wher­ever they watch the game – that ev­ery time the ball was passed back to the goal­keeper the fans would make a joke.

“Now they have no bad goal­keep­ing. They’ve got very good goal­keep­ers.

“Gareth South­gate made a fan­tas­tic de­ci­sion to make Jordan Pick­ford No 1.

“He had no past in the na­tional team and he’s a young, fresh goal­keeper and the sup­port­ers can’t pick on him.

“He’s shown here what he can do with this new phi­los­o­phy. hope this joke about English goal­keep­ers – in the press, too – will go away.”

Zu­ber­buh­ler ex­pe­ri­enced a few “dodgy keeper” chants dur­ing his spell with West Brom and he then spent three years as a Ful­ham re­serve un­til he hung up his gloves in 2011.

But English foot­ball never saw the best of him as he was 35 when he ar­rived and he had al­ready en­joyed con­sid­er­able suc­cess for Grasshop­pers, Basel and Switzer­land, most mem­o­rably when he kept five clean sheets at the 2006 World Cup.

Zu­ber­buh­ler’s main les­son from Russia has been the rise of the “play­maker from be­hind”, a role Ever­ton’s exSun­der­land star Pick­ford has played bril­liantly.

“The dis­tri­bu­tion has been fan­tas­tic and you can see a lot of progress from the last two World Cups. In the past, keepers make about 25 passes a game but now it’s more like 40 to 45, a mas­sive in­crease,” he said.

He ex­plained that what fans first saw with Ger­many’s “sweeper keeper” Manuel Neuer has pro­gressed. Pick­ford, for ex­am­ple, made 55 passes in Eng­land’s semi-fi­nal de­feat by Croa­tia.

“The keepers are in­flu­enc­ing the game from be­hind: ‘I play long, I play short, I calm it down, I speed up.’ This is the big change,” he said.

“If I was to do a train­ing ses­sion and kick maybe 200 balls at your hands it would be fine, but this isn’t enough any­more. Goal­keep­ing is about mak­ing de­ci­sions, hav­ing a per­son­al­ity and be­ing a play­maker from be­hind.”

De­spite Pick­ford’s ef­forts, FIFA’s Golden Glove award for the best goal­keeper at the World Cup is likely to go to Hugo Lloris of France or Croa­tia’s Dani­jel Suba­sic, both of whom have made key saves to keep their teams on track, most no­tably Suba­sic’s four saves in shoot-outs.

l Eng­land face Bel­gium in the third-place play-off to­day (3pm kick-off ).

Wearsider Jordan Pick­ford urges Eng­land for­ward af­ter con­ced­ing against Croa­tia in Wed­nes­day night’s World Cup semi-fi­nal de­feat.

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