MANAGER Gareth Southgate admits he has been impressed by Jordan Pickford’s World Cup audition as the battle to become England’s No 1 heats up.
Joe Hart is not the immovable object he once was, given the 75-cap goalkeeper’s struggles for game-time and form, with some even questioning his inclusion for the friendlies against Holland and Italy.
Uncapped Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope, Stoke’s Jack Butland and Everton’s Pickford were also called up for this month’s World Cup warm-up friendlies, with the latter given the nod for Friday’s 1-0 win in Amsterdam.
The 24-year-old did well on just his second senior appearance, helping England to a deserved victory and bolstering his chances of a starting role in Russia.
“Yes (it was a good night for Pickford) definitely,” Southgate said of the Everton goalkeeper.
“He transferred what we know he can do into an important game, a game away from home, so that was good for him.
If you can play with composure and play through and out of pressure then it (eases) off the opposition in terms of their pressure and eventually they stop running and you have more time in different areas of the field.England boss Gareth Southgate
“I think (it was) not the test that we faced in November (friendlies against Germany and Brazil) in terms of the pressure on our defence and the experience of the players. But, nevertheless, I think that’s 11 clean sheets from our 16 games and that gives us a good base to build from.”
Southgate said there was “one moment of concentration that he has got to get right” on a night when the Three Lions boss was “generally really pleased” with a goalkeeper able to provide yet more composure to this transitional team.
Pickford was involved in the build-up to Jesse Lingard’s winner and his abilities complement a young defence showing a “different skill-set” to the previous generation.
“I think it allows you to play in a different way,” added Southgate.
“There are moments where the goalkeeper or a defender can come and put the ball into the stand or play it forward hopefully.
“But if you can play with composure and play through and out of pressure then it (eases) off the opposition in terms of their pressure and eventually they stop running and you have more time in different areas of the field.
“The profile of all of that defence and goalkeeper allowed us to do that.”
Goalkeeper has been a problem area for England, as has midfield.
Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did well in Amsterdam behind Lingard playing as No 8, while Jack Wilshere would have played had he not suffered a knee issue on the eve of the game.
The Arsenal midfielder is out of England’s friendly against Italy tomorrow, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek – man of the match on his debut against Germany in November – is also a World Cup option when back from an ankle injury.
“I think I said when we named the squad that Ruben was one that really impressed us in November, has different sorts of attributes and really is a number eight or No 10 rather than a deeper player,” said Southgate.
“But we have good competition for places because if you look at possible No 8s, Adam Lallana comes into that as well.
“We need to look at something a little bit different maybe Tuesday just to see as many of the different players in different roles as we can before we name the squad.”
Southgate said there might be “tweak to the system” against the Azzurri, and confirmed personnel changes will be made.
The uncapped quartet of Lewis Cook, Alfie Mawson, James Tarkowski and Nick Pope stayed on the sidelines in Amsterdam, but Southgate suggested some of them will be involved tomorrow.
“The aim will be will make some changes,” said Southgate. “We’ve got to get the balance of embedding some principles and some experimentation.
“Certainly, some of those guys we want to see on the pitch.”
Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, looks to be Harry Kane’s main rival for the captaincy role this summer after impressing agaimnst Holland.
“I think we know about all the leaders in the group,” said Southgate. “With Jordan, obviously he’s one of the few guys that captains his club or has captained his club so he’s comfortable in that role.
“He’s comfortable in speaking up for the group. He has a mindset for the collective, not just self and that’s obviously a hugely important attribute for a captain to have.”