Jordan Pickford could easily be forgiven for pinching himself every morning he wakes. The little gesture is, of course, to remind him of the incredible journey he has been on to get to this point in his flourishing football career.
He is about to start as England’s first choice keeper in the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia, with head coach Gareth Southgate handing him the No.1 jersey and with it the responsibility of safeguarding a nation’s hopes.
Yet the amazing journey to date could be about to take yet another twist thanks to a report that the Everton custodian could be about to make a sensational switch to Manchester United.
One UK bookmaker has seen a lot of money on Pickford making the move to Old Trafford and the word “intrigue” is being used to describe both the rumours of a switch and the source of the information leading to punters splashing the cash.
The speculation surround possible transfer activity at the Theatre of Dreams has, of course, been ramped up with the news on Pickford given that for many a month now there has been talk of David De Gea joining Real Madrid.
So, is Pickford the Spain star’s replacement as identified by United manager Jose Mourinho? It would be a huge blow to the Everton faithful should Pickford, who is aged 24, quit Goodison Park. His club form has been outstanding – this we know or else he wouldn’t be the Three Lions keeper, of course; so good, in fact, that he won two player of the season awards at the club’s annual end-of-season gongs bash.
There can only be a few fans or indeed pundits who would have predicted that Pickford, who was at Sunderland for six years before joining the Blues of Merseyside, would be England’s No.1 AND a potential Manchester United ace come 2018. And that observation is reinforced somewhat when you consider that he was turning out for non-league Alfreton Town on loan from the Black Cats going back only as far as 2013.
In that short time, he has been propelled to stardom. The World Cup provides the biggest stage in international football for the stopper; he could soon be on one of the biggest domestic stages at Old Trafford.
Above all of it he will always return to the days when he wasn’t so well known. And in particular he will recall the sense of confidence he has always had in his game. He remembers:
“I was at Alfreton and remember a corner in a game at Wrexham, when they put seven players on top of me. The first one I could have come and got it, the second one I did come and took it. And they ran away.
“It’s really all about game management. You just can’t be frightened as you get only one chance. I have always taken that chance and taken it well.”
The FIFA World Cup gives him a chance he wants to grab with both hands.