Sunderland born Jordan Pickford: The best is yet to come from me

Jordan Pickford starred for England in the 1-nil win over Croatia Credit: Mark Pain/Press Association Images

Former Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford says that for all he has already achieved in his career, the Wearsider believes the best is yet to come.

Pickford, who now plays for Everton, is likely to start for England on Friday at Wembley when Gareth Southgate's side take on Scotland.

However, the 27-year-old will be staying calm between the sticks. The Washington Lad has always had a reputation for having a temper and getting too worked up.  But the Everton man is aware of this - and for a while now he's been seeing a sports psychologist, in an effort to calm down.

Next up for both England and Pickford is Scotland. But while the media will whip up the old enemy narrative, Pickford says the players don't really think like that. Especially not the new calmer, Jordan Pickford.

England want another win. Jordan Pickford wants another calm, clean sheet.

Scotland will have other ideas. The mouth-watering Euro 2020 UK Derby between England and Scotland is live on ITV on Friday night.

If you're talking about Jordan Pickford in terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and why wouldn't you?), the Everton and England Goalkeeper needs to become more like the "Avengers: Endgame" version of the Incredible Hulk. In a nutshell: he needs to be calmer. He needs to learn to live more comfortably with his inner monster. In the Marvel Films, the Incredible Hulk exists as two people: The mild-mannered Dr. Bruce Banner, who occasionally morphs into the raging, smashing, destructive Hulk. In "Avengers: Endgame" the audience meets a character who's a hybrid of both - a chilled-out, big green bloke who has learned to balance both sides of his personality. 

The good news is Jordan Pickford has been trying to find his version of that. He's been seeing a Sports Psychologist for some time. Why? Because Jordan's got a temper, Jordan can be a hothead, Jordan likes having arguments with opposing players and crowds and, most of all, with his own defenders. He had a bit of a row with John Stones during the opening Euro 2020 win over Croatia last Sunday (it was to do with a difference of opinion over playing out from the back). But this is, hopefully, becoming the exception now, rather than the norm.

 He's married, he's a father, he's an ever more experienced international footballer. He's even changed his haircut. In short, Jordan's growing up and he realises the grown-up version of himself might be even better than the original.

It's also important to say a bit of an "edge" isn't the worst thing in the world. Many sportspeople like to live in the fire. It's not unusual to thrive in the heat of battle and use the tension, atmosphere, and adrenalin to elevate performance. But Jordan's a goalkeeper. More than that, he's England's Goalkeeper at major tournaments. There are times when a calm head and 100% concentration are what's required.

He's already got an impressive story to tell: The Sunderland Fan who came through the Academy, then played brilliantly for the Black Cats first team, even though the club was falling apart at the seams at the time. The big-money move to Everton, becoming England's number one and helping his nation beat its penalty shoot-out curse. But he thinks he can do more. He wants to be the mild-mannered Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk at the same time.

 This week he said "It was the right moment in my career to make that next step as a person, first and foremost, and to get that next level of ability from myself and just keep raising my targets and never be happy where I am. I just want to keep hitting next levels and being the best Jordan Pickford I can be".

The best Jordan Pickford could go on to achieve great things in his club and international career and would certainly make life better for England at Euro 2020.