Loan experience key to Jordan Pickford’s development as he targets Sunderland return against Everton

Jordan Pickford
Jordan Pickford
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Darlington, Alfreton, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Bradford City and Preston North End.

Jordan Pickford enjoyed loan spells at them all before returning back home to achieve his boyhood dream of playing in goal for Sunderland.

And the 22-year-old Washington stopper credits his loan spells away from the Stadium of Light as key to his development.

In his own words, Pickford went out on loan for a reason and that was to become Sunderland’s number one.

Vito Mannone will have something to say on that front, but Pickford is expected to return to the Black Cats’ starting line-up for tomorrow’s Premier League match at Everton.

Pickford, who has missed the last two months with the knee injury picked up at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, made his Sunderland debut last season but broke into the side on a regular basis in August after Mannone was ruled out with an elbow injury.

He was far from a novice, though, having racked up more than 100 league appearances thanks to his loan spells.

Ahead of the Everton game, Pickford – who is now back in full training and starred in the open training session at the Stadium of Light this week – has been reflecting on how the loan spells away from Sunderland helped shape his career.

“The loan move to Preston North End last season was massive for me and every loan move I have been on has helped me develop,” said Pickford.

“You might be technically good, but going on loan helps your development and your understanding of the game. You become more mature.

“Playing every Saturday at 3pm is massive; there is no better feeling than playing.

“You are not always relying on your parents or your girlfriend.

“It helps you mature. Every game you play, the better you become.

“I went on loan for a reason and that reason was to become Sunderland’s number one and to keep the shirt.

“2016 was a great year, making my Premier League debut, then my home debut and staying up and being part of the squad and being in the Sunderland first team,” added Pickford, who was recently crowned the North East Football Writers’ Young Player of the Year.

Mark Prudhoe, a goalkeeping coach at Sunderland, believes the fierce competition can only benefit Sunderland as Pickford battles Mannone for the number one jersey.

“It’s been the worst injury Jordan has had in his career,” said one-time Sunderland keeper Prudhoe.

“But Dave Binningsley and the other physios have done a great job to get him back ahead of time.

“Now he has to hit the ground running, and take his opportunity when it comes again.

“He’s still got to become number one, in my opinion. That’s his next test.

“He’s competing with Vito, who I worked with at Hull, and there is real healthy competition between them, which is great for the manager.”

Mannone was in goal for Sunderland, two points from safety at the foot of the Premier League, when they were thrashed 4-0 by Southampton last time out.

The Italian, who had kept two clean sheets against Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace prior to the Saints defeat, was left exposed by the poor defending.

Pickford was watching on from the stands ahead of his return to the squad and he admits the result was bitterly disappointing, given the euphoria of the win over Palace seven days before.

“We had a really good spell but didn’t get a clear-cut chance to score a goal in the first 25 minutes,” added Pickford.

“I have played games and seen it when I have been out on loan, if you don’t get that goal when you are playing really well....

“We will bounce back as we have a good mentality about us. We are strong as a unit and will go again against Everton to try and get a result.”

Sunderland head to Goodison Park fresh from a two-week break from competitive action, with David Moyes taking his first-team squad to New York on a four-night team-bonding trip last week.

Pickford believes the Black Cats will reap the benefits from their trip to the Big Apple as they battle against the drop in the closing months of the campaign.

It was something Moyes did when he was Everton boss and it sparked a winning run.

“New York was massive for team spirit and we’ll look to come back flying,” added Pickford.