Winner Jordan Pickford thrives on being a leader on and off the pitch for Sunderland despite his tender years.
The in-demand 23-year-old has been one of the few plus points from Sunderland’s relegation to the Championship after breaking into the first team this season.
His performances have won rave reviews and admirers, with a host of top Premier League clubs including Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City all tracking the England Under-21 international.
Pickford was this week named the Sunderland Supporters Association’s Young Player of the Year, with Jermain Defoe collecting the main prize after his 15 goals.
And Pickford says he thrives on the pressure when asked about his passionate displays in the Sunderland goal.
Pickford said: “I’m a winner and I’m like that in training too.
“I don’t like to concede goals, although sometimes you have to as you are facing Jermain Defoe!
“It is all about keeping a clean sheet and doing your job, as soon as I cross the white line I am demanding – that is what it is about.
“You have to be a leader as a goalkeeper, I feel like I am in the team even though I am only young. I try my best to help the lads.”
Pickford produced his best performance of the season to keep Hull at bay last weekend and is hoping to do the same when Swansea City visit the Stadium of Light tomorrow (KO 3pm).
“I go into every game hoping to keep a clean sheet, if I do that I am happy,” he added.
“The Premier League is the best league in the world, all I can do is do my best and if I keep a clean sheet then I am happy.”
When asked about his personal highlights, he added: “Playing week in, week out in my debut year and experiencing the big stadiums and capacity crowds has been great.
“That’s what I went out on all the loan moves, so when the chance in the Premier League came I was ready for it.
“We did it properly from a young age. The highlight has been playing week in, week out and showing everyone how good I can be.”
Proud Pickford, a Sunderland fan, said the young player of the year award means everything to him.
“It is great to win this award, especially when you look at the players who have won it over the last 10 years and the careers they have gone on to have,” said Pickford.
“It just shows that hard work pays off. It is a young player award but you have to work hard on and off the training ground to get that result.
“It is my second one after winning the North East Young Player award too, so it has been a good year for me,” added Pickford, who is serenaded every game with chants of “Jordan Pickford, he’s one of our own”.
“It is great when you walk off and hear them singing that,” added the Washington-born stopper.
“It puts hairs on the back of your net and it is a massive privilege for me, I appreciate that.
“It shows that my game and hard work is paying off with my performances – hopefully the fans like what they are seeing.”