Jordan Pickford

Young keeper looks ahead to 2013-14

by Ashley Houghton

Pickford looking to push on.

Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford says the forthcoming season could be the biggest yet as he looks to push towards the Black Cats’ first team.

Pickford, who has recently returned from international duty with England U19s in Belgium, told that he hopes to continue his fine progress from last season.

“Hopefully I’ll do well in pre-season and be around the first team,” the Washington-born stopper said.

“If I can please the gaffer then obviously my aim is to get to the first team but if not then maybe I can look at going out on loan.

“Last year I was at Alfreton Town and it proved to be a big learning curve for me; I played with players who are playing for their livelihood; their will to win is massive.”

Pickford helped the Reds to their highest ever finish in the Conference Premier, keeping four clean sheets in his 13 games at North Street.

“It was a great experience for me,” Pickford said. “I want to break into the first-team setup [at Sunderland] this season even if that is on the bench.

“If it’s the case that I need to go out on loan then it would be good to test myself at a higher level in the Football League.

“First and foremost I’m focused on pre-season and that has to be my target for the new campaign.”

The 19-year-old stopper played twice at the UEFA U19 European Championships as Noel Blake’s side were eliminated at the Elite Group stage.

And though the early exit frustrated Pickford, he spoke of his great pride at registering his 33rd youth international cap.

“I’m really privileged to have played a lot for my country,” Pickford said.

“I love it and, to be honest, I find it quite a bit easier now than when I first started - I used to be quite nervous putting on the England jersey.”