Sam Allardyce is yet to decide whether to recall hot prospect Jordan Pickford in the January transfer window.
Allardyce was among the crowd at Deepdale on Tuesday night to watch Sunderland keeper Pickford record a fifth consecutive clean sheet for Championship outfit Preston.
I think the bigger problems lie in front of the goalkeeper, not the two goalies we’ve got here in Costel and VitoSam Allardyce
Washington-born Pickford has thrived for Preston since joining the Lilywhites on a season-long loan in the summer, with the 21-year-old becoming Gareth Southgate’s first-choice stopper for England Under-21s.
With Sunderland keeper Costel Pantilimon making several high-profile errors in recent games, there have been question marks over whether Pickford could be brought back to Wearside in January.
It’s something Allardyce will consider, although he believes Sunderland’s dire defensive record is down to wider problems than just the goalkeeper.
Allardyce told the Echo: “It was nice to see him playing first-team football on a regular basis (on Tuesday).
“Between now and January, there’s a considerable amount of time to consider what we might do.
“I think the bigger problems lie in front of the goalkeeper, not the two goalies we’ve got here in Costel and Vito (Mannone).
“But hopefully Jordan will continue to do the job and that young man will be Sunderland’s regular goalkeeper one day. Whether it’s under my time or not, time will tell.”
Despite his tender years, Pickford has already amassed more than 100 competitive appearances during spells at Darlington, Alfreton, Burton, Carlisle, Bradford and now Preston, after first being sent out on loan as a 17-year-old.
Allardyce says that experience working through the leagues is invaluable, albeit Pickford is yet to be tested in the Premier League. “For a young man, he’s played a huge amount of league games, which is a huge benefit to him,” added Allardyce.
“While he might be in his early 20s, he’s got great league experience, although not at this level yet.
“The step-up is huge, as a goalkeeper. But it’s one he might be capable of making.”