Keeper's Three Lions pride

by Ashley Houghton

Young stopper relishing England U19 chance.

Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford says there is no prouder moment for him than when he puts on an England jersey.

The England under-19 international is currently number one in his age group and is set to start as Noel Blake’s side host Turkey in Telford tonight.

“It’s a really good feeling,” he said.

“I’ve done it since I was an under-16 so I’m quite used to it now but it’s still a very proud feeling for me.”

Blake’s side have only lost once since Pickford made his debut, a 3-1 friendly defeat to Germany. With tonight’s game being their last before they travel to Lithuania for the next stage of the European Championships, Pickford says it has added importance.

“We lost against Germany in my first game, but we didn’t start too well that day,” he said.

“Since then we’ve played well and to be honest we haven’t been tested with the exception of Denmark.

“I’ve managed to keep three clean sheets which have been nice but I’m always striving to improve.”

Pickford, 19, is currently on loan at Alfreton Town and has produced two man-of-the-match performances during his time in Nottinghamshire.

Nicky Law [Alfreton Town Manager] branded Pickford’s kicking as a real strong point as the Washington-born youngster is yet to taste defeat at the Impact Arena.

“It’s been brilliant for me and much better than playing under-21 football at the Academy.

“It’s a real test and you’re playing with players who have mortgages to pay so it’s their life and that passion shines through.

“We’ve done really well. When I joined we were 18th and looking over our shoulders - now we’re 13th and looking quite comfortable above the relegation zone.

“I still do my training at Sunderland which is good for me and then get first-team football on a Saturday and Tuesday.”

Pickford has two game let in his currently spell at Alfreton; the first is a trip to Braintree before the Reds host Tamworth next week.

“It’s a long trip to Braintree and it will be a difficult game as they are around us in the league,” he explained.

“We then play Tamworth, where we drew a few weeks ago, so hopefully at our own ground we can beat them this time.

“It would be nice to come back from Alfreton with an unbeaten record.”