Pre­ston goal­keeper Jor­dan Pick­ford on his England dreams

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Rus­sell Mullen

IN-FORM Pre­ston stop­per Jor­dan Pick­ford has his sights set on fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of England keeper Joe Hart, but for now has his feet firmly on the ground and fears Euro 2016 might come too soon for him to make his big break­through.

Hart learned his trade at Shrews­bury Town and re­fined those skills at Birm­ing­ham City, be­fore fi­nally be­ing un­leashed at Manch­ester City.

Pick­ford, on loan from Sun­der­land, is do­ing sim­i­lar... and North End and England Un­der-21s are reap­ing the re­wards.

You need two hands to count the num­ber of clean-sheets he has kept in the open­ing three months of the sea­son, and con­se­quently Manch­ester United are said to have him on their radar. And be­fore Roy Hodg­son names his squad for friendlies against Spain and France later this month, he could do worse than take a trip to Deep­dale.

Fel­low Cham­pi­onship keep­ers Rob Green and Tom Heaton have had se­nior call-ups along­side Hart and Jack But­land lately, with Ben Fos­ter and Fraser Forster both out in­jured.

Yet Pick­ford has poured cold wa­ter on sug­ges­tions he is set to en­ter the elite in­ter­na­tional fray, and for now is keen to fo­cus on max­imis­ing the chance be­ing af­forded to him by Pre­ston.

Learn­ing

“Jack But­land is a good keeper and only young, and Joe Hart is my role model,” said Pick­ford.

“I look at his ca­reer path and I want the same. He played lower league foot­ball and worked his way up and I think that is the way to do it.

“I’ve got my place in the Un­der-21 team and I need to keep my head down and work hard to keep the shirt. If I keep do­ing well it would be a dream to play for the se­nior team, but I think that’s a way off yet. For now it is about what I can do day-to-day.

“Ev­ery game I’m play­ing is part of the learn­ing curve. I had a good start and have been do­ing well again re­cently.

“Hope­fully I can keep more clean-sheets, be­cause I feel that I am get­ting bet­ter with ev­ery game. It’s def­i­nitely a case of learn­ing on the job.”

Pick­ford’s best laid plans could well go awry, how­ever, through no fault of his own.

Par­ent club Sun­der­land have had their cus­tom­ary chaotic start to the sea­son and Sam Allardyce has re­placed Dick Ad­vo­caat in the Sta­dium of Light dugout. An­other rel­e­ga­tion scrap looks set to en­sue and if the Black Cats drop down a tier then Allardyce may see his squad dec­i­mated.

But Wash­ing­ton-born Pick­ford be­lieves his home­town club will do enough to sur­vive.

“It’s been a hard start to the sea­son; it’s the tough­est league in the world, be­cause ev­ery game is com­pet­i­tive,” he added.

“It is hard to see them down there be­cause I’m a fan – I have been since I was a boy – but hope­fully beat­ing New­cas­tle last week­end is the start of things turn­ing around.

Re­wards

“I don’t think about what might hap­pen to me if Sun­der­land got rel­e­gated, it has not even crossed my mind.

“This year is about me get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter and hope­fully the chance to play for Sun­der­land will come for me fur­ther down the line.

“Sam Allardyce has big­ger things to worry about at the mo­ment than me.

“But some of the staff have been over to watch me this sea­son and I am only 15 min­utes away from their train­ing ground, so it’s not been dif­fi­cult to keep in touch.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

SOLID STOP­PER: Jor­dan Pick­ford has made a big im­pres­sion on loan at Pre­ston North End THREE LIONS: Pick­ford wants to fol­low in the foot­steps of Joe Hart and Jack But­land with an England call-up

ENGLAND’S N0.1?: Jor­dan Pick­ford knows he has to learn his trade, but has been tipped to reach the very top

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