‘Going to the top’ Pickford could keep Sunderland up, says Chris Kirkland

Jordan Pickford is impressing on loan at Preston

Jordan Pickford is impressing on loan at Preston

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Experienced former England international Chris Kirkland has backed Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford to go “right to the top” of the game.

And he says the 21-year-old could help the Black Cats beat the drop – if he is brought back from his impressive season-long loan stint at Preston North End in the Championship.

Former Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday keeper Kirkland has watched Pickford from the sidelines and has no arguments about being second-choice to the Under-21 international prospect, who has been tipped to cut short his loan and return to Sunderland next month.

Kirkland told our sister paper, the Lancashire Evening Post: “I have worked alongside a number of top-class goalkeepers in my career and I have to say that Jordan Pickford is up there with the best.

“He has got a great chance of going right to the top and his performances for Preston this season have been top-drawer.

“Goalkeepers should make saves, after all, that is their job, but the thing which has really caught my eye is his command of the penalty area.”

“Jordan comes out to take crosses and has an authority for someone still very young.

“As for his kicking, that is brilliant! I have never seen anyone kick a ball like he does.

“Even when I was 21, I couldn’t kick a ball as far as Jordan can.

“He has a real willingness to learn and a good career is in front of him.

“There has been a lot of talk about Sunderland recalling him from his loan with us.

“I hope he stays here but if he does go back, Jordan could play a key part in Sunderland’s attempts to stay up in the Premier League.

“At Jordan’s age, you tend to be fearless on the pitch and that is a big help.

“It is only later on when you get a bit older that you start to worry about making mistakes.”