Pickford lifts lid on battle with Butland to be England No 1

Date published: Monday 4th June 2018 10:38

Jordan Pickford says he expects to learn before the start of the World Cup whether he or Jack Butland is England’s first-choice goalkeeper.

Joe Hart’s omission and Gareth Southgate’s selection of the inexperienced Pickford, Butland and Nick Pope means there is more uncertainty surrounding England’s options than at any time since Hart became a regular after South Africa 2010.

That the 24-year-old Pickford was awarded his third cap in Saturday’s 2-1 friendly victory over Nigeria means he is in contention to start against Tunisia on June 18, even if Butland is selected against Costa Rica in Thursday’s friendly.

Prior to Hart’s promotion both Robert Green and David James struggled in similar circumstances in 2010 when then-manager Fabio Capello only told Green he would start against the United States two hours before kick-off – and he then under-performed.

Green last month spoke of the importance of Southgate not repeating that mistake and Pickford said: “Nothing’s been confirmed yet. I’ve just to keep putting in performances like I did and keep working hard in training.

“That’s all I’ve done throughout my career. Getting the nod (against Nigeria) was brilliant – there’s another cap ticked off and another solid performance. That’s three good performances for the team.

“Nothing’s been said. We’ve got three days’ training before the (Costa Rica) game so I’ve just got to train hard and work hard off the pitch and hopefully I’ll get the nod again.

“I’ve worked with the manager before at Under-21 level so maybe he will tell us in advance, but when that will be I don’t know.”

England impressed throughout Saturday’s first half at Wembley but though they thereafter struggled to play with the same fluidity, Pickford believes that by still securing victory they passed a significant test of their character,

“Our mental side of the game in the second half was quality,” he said, touching on a trait which has often undermined them in major tournaments.

“We know about our technical ability and we know we can create a lot of opportunities, so it’s about defending and adapting to stuff and we did it. I know we didn’t create a lot of chances but we still did important stuff.”

 

It was perhaps a lack of character that undermined England two years ago at Euro 2016, when they were unexpectedly eliminated by Iceland.

Hart, Wayne Rooney and Chris Smalling are prominent among those then involved but who are not even travelling to Russia. Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford are among those who remain – and the latter insists that that experience will help Southgate’s team.

“The feeling of losing is a nasty feeling,” the 20-year-old Manchester United forward said. “Sometimes when you speak to people they don’t really understand the feeling.

“We’ll definitely take the things that happened in that tournament into the next one because that’s going to put us in good stead.

“We have to express ourselves. Over the last 18 months or so we’ve improved as a team, and we have to go there and show everyone that we’ve improved as a team. If we do anything less than that then we’re going to be disappointed in ourselves.”

 

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