Young Sunderland stopper Jordan Pickford has been tipped as a future No 1 for club AND country, writes Richard Mennear.
The 21-year-old is currently excelling on loan at Championship side Preston North End.
And Sunderland’s current No 1 Costel Pantilimon has hailed his young rival for the jersey and backed the England Under-21 keeper to go to the very top of his profession.
Pantilimon told the Echo: “I have seen how well Jordan is doing and I am really happy for him.
“He is at a good club, learning his trade.
“He is the future for England and this club too and I hope that he continues to do well.
“This club will need him in the future.”
Sunderland scouts are keeping a very close eye on Pickford during his season-long loan spell at Preston North End, with reports every game.
There had been suggestions earlier in the season - when Pantilimon was struggling for form behind a leaky Sunderland defence - that Pickford could be recalled early from his spell in the North West.
The Echo understands there is a small window of opportunity in January for that to happen.
But back-to-back victories and clean sheets for Sam Allardyce’s first team has also resulted in a major improvement from the Romanian stopper, with the manager praising his contribution.
Allardyce has personally watched Pickford in action and Pantilimon believes it is vital he continues to get game time at Preston.
“For him, it is good for his development to be playing every week,” added Pantilimon.
“He has been doing well and it is helping him.
“To have a good performance, when you are young it is important to play and have confidence.”