JORDAN Pickford hopes opportunity knocks for him at Sunderland this season, now that fellow keepers Craig Gordon and Trevor Carson have left the club.
The England Under-19 keeper had set his sights on going out on loan again this term after benefiting so much from a spell at Darlington in the last campaign.
But, after the departures of former British record goalkeeper signing Gordon and the long-serving Carson, Pickford senses the door could be opening for him at the Stadium of Light.
And he plans to wait and see what manager Martin O’Neill has in mind for him before asking to go out on loan again.
He told the Echo: “There’s obviously Simon Mignolet and Keiren Westwood, the senior keepers, that I am behind.
“But that’s a massive improvement compared to last season when I was behind those two and Craig and Trevor as well.
“So I’ll wait and see.
“I could be third-choice keeper, but you never know what’s going to happen over the course of a season.
“Last season, getting a look-in wasn’t easy with so many other keepers around, but this time I’ve loved training with the first team in pre-season and I’ll just see what happens from there.”
Pickford has looked to make his mark in pre-season and did his reputation no harm in South Korea, coming on as a second-half substitute in Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Groningen and not conceding while he was on the pitch..
That, in itself, will have made a point in the Washington-born teenager’s mind.
He explained: “My main aim in pre-season has been to prove to prove that I can play at the highest level, which is why I was so glad to be involved with the first team on the trip.
“Getting games in pre-season is all about hoping to show the manager you can do a job for him and that’s what I’ve tried my hardest to do.”
Although the 18-year-old was one of a number of youngsters who made the trip to Korea, he is already something of an old hand in terms of touring.
He travelled with Sunderland to Germany last season and has played for England since he was 16 – this year moving up from England Under-18s to the U19s – so he is familiar with all that comes and is expected with travelling abroad with football squads.
But he credits the spell on loan at Darlington, between January and April, as the doomed Quakers slid towards relegation, as one of the most pivotal moments in his development.
“Last season was great, going out on loan there, because I think it really helped take me to the next level,” he added.
“It was the Conference Premier, so it wasn’t the highest level, but, all of a sudden, I was playing proper football – football that really counted – and although it wasn’t a great time for the club it was a great experience for me.
“I don’t mind going on loan again and I’d be happy if that was what was going to happen to me.
“But, at the same time, I’ll have to wait and see what the club wants.”