Jordan Pickford says he is doing everything possible to achieve his dream of becoming England No.1.
The Sunderland academy product is one of four goalkeepers in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the upcoming friendlies against Holland and Italy ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Pickford, who moved to Everton in a deal worth up to £30million last summer, is competing with Joe Hart, Nick Pope and Jack Butland.
And the confident 24-year-old has his eyes firmly fixed on becoming England’s No.1.
Pickford has one cap to his name after making his debut for his country in the goalless draw with Germany at Wembley back in November.
Speaking exclusively to the Echo, Pickford said: “All I can do is keep putting in the hard work and putting in performances each week and in each game.
“That starts on the training ground and in the gym and also the nutritional side of the game, to give myself the best opportunity to became the best I can be.
“Hopefully that will help me to become England’s No.1.
“That’s what I want to be, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want it.Hopefully I can get on the plane – that’s the first aim – and then go from there.”
Washington-born Pickford was back in the region recently having been named North East Football Writers Association’s young player of the year.
He retained the award after a stunning year which saw him establish himself as one of the brightest talents in the country and his performances for Sunderland and Everton, Pickford one of the few to come out of Sunderland’s relegation from the Premier League with credit.
The new England squad includes four uncapped men – Burnley’s Nick Pope andJames Tarkowski, Swansea defender Alfie Mawson and Lewis Cook (Bournemouth).
* Sunderland loanees Jake Clarke-Salter and Ovie Ejaria have been called up for England Under-21s March internationals.
Head coach Aidy Boothroyd has named the duo in his 26-man squad for the Cyrille Regis International with Romania and a Euro qualifier against Ukraine.
Centre-back Clarke-Salter, who has recently served a three-match ban and is in contention to face Preston North End, joined Sunderland on loan from Chelsea in January, with midfielder Ejaria joining later that month from Liverpool.
Both have been regulars under Chris Coleman, with Ejaria, in particular, impressing in a struggling Sunderland side that props up the Championship table.
The Under-21s will face Romania at Wolves’ Molineux next Saturday, March 24, in the Cyrille Regis International and then the Euro qualifier with Ukraine at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane on Tuesday, March 27.
Meanwhile, there is no place for either John O’Shea or Aiden McGeady in Martin O’Neill’s 30-man provisional squad for the friendly between Republic of Ireland and Turkey next Friday in Antalya.
O’Shea has been struggling with a thigh problem of late, playing through the pain barrier for Sunderland, and Coleman will welcome the chance for his skipper to rest.
McGeady’s form has been inconsistent since joining Sunderland last summer from Preston North End.
Joel Asoro has been included in the Sweden Under-21 squad, who travel to Turkey and Cyprus in the upcoming international break. They play Turkey on March 23 and then Cyprus the following Tuesday.
Paddy McNair hasn’t played for Sunderland recently due to a groin problem but is in the Northern Ireland squad to face Korea Republic.