Belfast Telegraph

Competition for places is a boost for Three Lions, insists Pickford

Fighting talk: Jordan Pickford
Fighting talk: Jordan Pickford

By Simon Peach

Jordan Pickford relishes the challenge of trying to hold onto the England No.1 spot and believes growing competition will push him to another level.

The Everton goalkeeper has repaid Gareth Southgate's faith since becoming first choice for the World Cup, where his penalty shoot-out heroics against Colombia were complemented by a man-of-the-match display in the quarter-final against Sweden.

Pickford's ability on the ball was key to his getting the starting role ahead of Jack Butland - a player who was omitted for the forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo following a difficult start to the season with Stoke.

Tom Heaton and Nick Pope got the nod instead this time, but Angus Gunn, Dean Henderson and Aaron Ramsdale are knocking at the door.

"I think it's great for the GK union that there is that much competition," Pickford said. "It means people will thrive and become better goalkeepers.

"It means you have to be performing for your club first and training hard, making yourself the best you can be at Everton for me, then England should take care of itself. The more competition the better. It will make me better as well. I think it's six goalkeepers (in the Premier League), which is quality for us."

Ben Foster takes the number of starting English goalkeepers in the Premier League to seven but is now retired from international duty, while Southgate is keeping tabs on Newcastle's Freddie Woodman during his loan spell at Swansea.

The Three Lions manager's options are keeping Pickford on his toes, so too the way he is willing to drop big names for the purpose of progress.

"You just look at the quality," the goalkeeper said. "The quality is throughout the team and we all know what we want to achieve as a team.

"We have new lads in this week and everyone is fighting with the competition. That is what everyone seems to do, the standard is unbelievable."

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