sport news IAN LADYMAN: It is time for Jordan Pickford to keep calm and carry on

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The night England lost to Croatia in last year's World Cup semi-final, I suggested to a colleague that Jordan Pickford would not be Gareth Southgate's goalkeeper by the time the European Championship came round in 2020. He disagreed immediately.

Where he saw the great saves, I couldn't see past the skittishness, the tendency to leave his line too early and to occasionally kick poorly. 

The uncertainty he spread through a tired England defence in extra-time that night in Moscow unnerved me.

Jordan Pickford has shown improvement for Everton as their keeper over the past season

Jordan Pickford has shown improvement for Everton as their keeper over the past season

Pickford was almost impossible to take your eyes off and in his position that is never a good thing. I feared that time — and the unforgiving relentlessness of the Premier League — would find him out.

More than 12 months on, I am on the wrong side of that conversation. Pickford will be first pick for the qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo when Southgate announces his squad this week.

But I also fear the debate is still live. Only last weekend, Southgate's Everton manager Marco Silva spoke about his goalkeeper's progress.

'I am trying to make Pickford calm,' was the headline in The Times and this pointed precisely to the reservations I held post-Russia.

Pickford showed occasional skittishness during England's run to the World Cup semi-final

Pickford showed occasional skittishness during England's run to the World Cup semi-final

Pickford is athletic, powerful and makes saves that stand out. From that point of view, he is very much the modern goalkeeper.

But concentration is as important as anything in Pickford's position. A former Premier League goalkeeper once told me he would commentate in his head as the game unfolded in front of him, to ensure he never switched off. The great Peter Shilton, meanwhile, used to focus so hard he would sweat.

Those techniques are not for everyone. Overwork your brain and it will let you down. But Pickford has too often struck me as a goalkeeper who only really comes alive when the play threatens to fundamentally involve him.

At the FA, they identified a real talent years ago. Before Pickford had even played for , the reports on him at St George's Park were overwhelmingly positive, the only reservation being that he was a little headstrong. Nothing unusual in that; he was a teenager.

But these will be the telling years of Pickford's career now. Goalkeepers do not mature early so, at 25, he has time on his side, but equally must move forwards and continue to leave certain destructive traits behind.

The influence of boss Marco Silva has helped improve Pickford over recent months

The influence of boss Marco Silva has helped improve Pickford over recent months

There has been improvement recently and this is referenced by Silva and endorsed by those who watch him regularly. That is encouraging because it was necessary.

Competition for Pickford's spot is not as strong as

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