Simon Grayson has paid tribute to Jordan Pickford’s talent ahead of his reunion with Sunderland, as well as his generosity.
Grayson played a key part in Pickford’s development during a successful loan spell at Deepdale, and revealed he has kept in touch with the 23-year-old ever since.
Pickford has quickly established himself as Everton’s number one goalkeeper, but could be rested for the Carabao Cup third round tie.
Grayson said: “I think Jordan deserves the credit for where he is at this moment in time, and the people that developed his career. He got that experience of going from non-league to the league and then to the Championship, then to be fair to the lad he’s grasped that opportunity and done ever so well.
“He’s learned how to develop and backed himself to play. When I was at Preston I did say I thought he’d be a Premier League regular and England’s number one in the future.
“People were surprised when we got him, people probably didn’t know a lot about him. Even our supporters weren’t aware of him, but before you know it, two or three games in everyone is talking about him and his ability,” he said.
“He’s great to work with, not the brightest lad but that’s what goalkeepers are for! I keep in touch with him even now, I sent him a text last year to ask for a donation to my prostate cancer justgiving page and within five minutes it was done and dusted. All credit to the lad and I hope he goes all the way.”
Grayson also confirmed that he is likely to make changes for the game at Goodison Park, and is weighing up whether to rest the impressive duo Callum McManaman and Jonny Williams.
He said: “It’s a balance. Jonny played three games in a week, and Callum two-and-a-bit games, and it caught up with both of them.
“You have to be careful because, yes, you want to get them up to match speed and ultimately the only way you can do that is by playing them.
“But you also have to be mindful of fatigue, which can then be a factor in soft tissue and muscle injuries.”
With James Vaughan playing through sickness on Saturday, Grayson could also ask a youngster to lead the line and says his forward options are slowly beginning to improve as Josh Maja and Duncan Watmore close in on returns after injury.
He said: “At the moment we have (Joel) Asoro and (Lynden) Gooch who would be the other options available to us.
“Duncan will play again for the U23s at the weekend against West Ham, Maja is back on the grass running and we expect him to be back with us again after the international break.
“And hopefully, should all go according to plan, Duncan should be with us around that time as well.
“We haven’t got lots of options available but in a few weeks’ time we’ll have more, which is what I keep stressing.”