Experience tells Jordan Pickford England need to start Euros with a win

Paul Wilson on 16 November 2019

Jordan Pickford is both England’s senior goalkeeper and something of a tournament veteran despite being only 25 and, having qualified for the Euro 2020 finals in some style in midweek, he is already looking forward to how next summer will pan out. “The first thing we need to do is win the opening group game,” the Everton player says.

“If we can do that the fans will start to believe and then something can grow. When we were in Russia last year it was amazing to see how excited the fans were back home. We know they are going to be right behind us if we are playing good football and winning games, and the chance to do it in our own country gives us all a great buzz.

“Realistically, this is as close to a home tournament as most of us are going to get in our playing careers. We could be playing the first three games at Wembley and you can’t ask for much more than that.”

Though Pickford believes England have learned a lot from last year’s progress to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia he also recognises the make-up of the squad has changed considerably over the past 18 months. What was already a young group of players has managed to get even younger.

“The squad is always developing, it’s good to see new faces and new competition,” he says. “There’s been a few changes since Russia but we are all hungry, that’s the important thing. Callum, Jadon and Mason [Hudson-Odoi, Sancho and Mount] are the latest lads to make the step up and it’s brilliant.

“The manager keeps saying if you are good enough you are old enough, but he knows there is a system in place at the moment. Everyone comes through the ranks from a young age – I started with England in the under-16s – so you get bedded into the set-up from an early age. It’s great that you can see a clear pathway from the U16s right through to the seniors, and I think we are all seeing the results at the moment.”

One of the benefits Gareth Southgate is seeing from a group of young and dedicated individuals is the enthusiasm and team spirit that manifests itself in get-togethers. Clearly in the week of the Raheem Sterling-Joe Gomez spat there is no need to pretend England training camps resemble group love-ins — “That’s all been dealt with, we move on as a group,” Pickford says – but he insists there is a camaraderie and positivity within the squad that has not always been the case with previous generations.

“I can’t say too much about what happened in the past but, speaking for myself, I love coming away with England, I enjoy every minute of these international squad sessions and I think everyone else would say the same thing,” he admits. “Everyone gets on, everyone always has a good laugh. It’s all about having fun, but when we need to be serious, we are serious. When we are on the training pitch we are on our A game; off the pitch it’s about enjoying the privilege of representing England, which everyone should do. I think I can speak for the rest of the lads and say meeting up in the England squad is something we all like doing.”

A vocal character on and off the pitch, Pickford is known for his sense of humour, but he also appreciates that football can be a cruel business. He was on the pitch when André Gomes suffered his fractured ankle at Goodison Park this month, and though not particularly close to the incident he still had to make sense of a whirlwind of emotions.

“I could tell it was something fairly horrendous but it was on the other side of the pitch and I didn’t really want to go over because as soon as loads of people start doing that you get into shock,” he explains. “Plus we still had a game to play and we were losing 1-0. I spent what was left of the match trying to get the lads reset and focused back on the game.

“Afterwards I tried to help Sonny [Son Heung-min] for Spurs as well, because I didn’t think he meant to do it. You never want to see that sort of injury in football but you know the game has the potential to be dangerous. James McCarthy’s injury against West Brom was right in front of me and it was horrific, but you have to find a way of dealing with such accidents.

“Touch wood I’m injury-free, but with André, Jamesy and Seamus Coleman we haven’t had the best of luck at Everton. André was in all our thoughts after the Spurs game but it was still worth putting an arm round Sonny and asking if he was all right. That’s what football is for, I think. It’s great to have team spirit and enjoy what you do for a living but you also have to be there for people when times are hard.”

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