Pope could oust Pickford for Nations League
JORDAN PICKFORD’S status as England’s first-choice goalkeeper is in doubt heading into the international restart. The Everton No 1, a fixture in Gareth Southgate’s plans since the 2018 World Cup, is facing a battle to keep the gloves with Burnley’s Nick Pope (right) believed to be applying significant pressure for the spot. The 26-year-old has suffered an alarming dip in form in recent months, with a number of high-profile errors costing Everton goals towards the end of last season.
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti warned Pickford publicly that his performances must improve after his display in a 3-0 defeat at Wolves in July. It is a slump in performance that has not gone unnoticed by Southgate and his backroom team who, sources claim, are concerned. As a result, Sportsmail understands the England manager is considering giving Pope — who kept 15 Premier
League clean sheets for Burnley last season — a game in at least one of the forthcoming Nations League fixtures against Iceland on Saturday and Denmark next Tuesday, the national team’s first matches in 11 months following the Covid-19 lockdown. No final decision on team selection has been made as Southgate examines his players in training this week. But Pickford — one of England’s heroes at the World Cup in Russia two years ago — is now in a genuine battle with Pope, 28, and Manchester United keeper
Dean Henderson, 23, for the No 1 shirt heading into next summer’s delayed European Championship. On the goalkeeper situation, Southgate said last week: ‘We have three decent goalkeepers, I think they are the best three in the country at the moment. I think Aaron Ramsdale comes into that list but better for him to play football with our Under 21s. There’s obviously Tom Heaton coming back from injury but these three are young enough to fight out a challenge. ‘In every position on the field we’ve got to have that competition. It’s 10 months since we played. ‘But I’ve also got to bear in mind that Jordan has had excellent performances for us with England and he has never let us down.’