Jordan Pickford to Everton is just about the perfect move for him at this stage in his career and makes sense for everyone concerned.
If the £18million pound fee plus add-ons that could take it closer to £30million is correct, that represents a good deal for both Everton and Sunderland in today’s market.
Some have baulked at the idea of such sums being spent on a keeper with just one full Premier League season under his belt but I’m in full agreement with Everton legend Neville Southall, Pickford will prove to be a bargain at that price and it’s about time that transfer fees started to reflect the true value of a good goalkeeper in comparison with their outfield counterparts.
There’s a reason why Gianluigi Buffon’s world record fee for a keeper has stood so long – until now, there hasn’t been a wealth of goalkeeping talent of his ilk moving clubs.
But now that we’re talking nine digit transfer fees for the world’s top strikers, it’s only natural that those of top keepers creep up too. It’s a little different at the top end of the game, but for many clubs below, the strength of their goalkeeping department depended on whatever of their budget was left over from strengthening the rest of their side.
For many clubs, it’s where corners have been cut. Some go into the season with just one first team keeper on their books, relying on the loan market when bad luck or form descends on their only option. Some even just rely solely on loaning a young keeper from a Premier League club knowing that it will cost them very little as they are doing the parent club a favour by giving their player valuable experience.
Whether Everton is Jordan’s stepping stone to the true elite of the game or spends the next decade at Goodison, this is the move that he needs at this time. In a career that has almost been perfectly structured from the ground up, it was important that he now goes in to a side that has a winning mentality before an up-against-it, survival mode mindset was too ingrained in him.
If he’s going to be as good as he can be, good performances and pats on the back aren’t enough to take you to the very top. There is no pressure in keeping the score down in a struggling side. You go in to games knowing that you can’t lose and whilst that more relaxed approach can help, when the pressure is on in big games you often see keepers struggle with the shift in approach.
A winning mentality and managing the level of expectations that come with a successful side have to become second nature; habit forming.
Call it arrogance, call it ultra confidence, but it’s what we’ve missed in English goalkeeping for a long time. Not since Peter Shilton have we had someone with genuine, unshakable confidence in themselves. To me, Jordan and Jack Butland have that. It’s the one position where the cracks of psychological fragility show themselves like ravines and are easily visible in those that have them. More brutal examinations will come but they’ll handle them all.
When he does go, there’s no question Jordan will leave a part of himself here but as much as Sunderland is part of his DNA, he will know himself the time to move is right. On a basic development level he will broaden his football horizons playing under Ronald Koeman and his goalkeeper coach Patrick Lodewijks.
On a personal level, moving away from the North East will mature him further still and take him out of his comfort zone and as much as anything he will encounter on the pitch, this will be his big test.
He has dipped in and out of moving away from home with his loan spells but there’s a comfort in knowing you’ll be going back. This is the first time his cord will be permanently cut from home and the environment of the club he has grown up in.
Personally, I always found this the most exciting part of moving clubs. The unknown. The new places to go, the new people you’re going to meet. The nerves created by all the newness became a buzz and I’m sure Jordan will be looking forward to this next challenge as he does with everything; head on and rubbing his hands together.
Of course it would be great to be able to keep our best players to try and build something special, but the club just isn’t in the position to do that. So all we should do is wish Jordan all the best and hope that he goes on to fulfil the expectations we have for him.
And now, at least we’ll have a team to support in the Premier League next season – and look forward to watching his reaction to saving a penalty and keeping a clean sheet at St James’s too.