JORDAN PICKFORD hopes his loan move to Carlisle will push him closer to first-team contention at Sunderland.
England Under-19 stopper Pickford made his debut for the Cumbrians in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Gillingham after joining the League One strugglers on a month’s loan just 24 hours earlier.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet opted to bring in Argentine international Oscar Ustari on a deal until the end of the season last month, rather than rely on 19-year-old Pickford as back-up to first-choice keeper Vito Mannone.
But Pickford is highly-rated at the Stadium of Light and after spells on loan in the Conference and League Two, the Washington-born custodian hopes his move to Carlisle proves another step up in his development.
Pickford said: “My overall aim is to get into the first team at Sunderland, but I know I need to take things step by step.
“Hopefully that approach will bring success and I’ll get some games for Sunderland.
“I think I’m close to 40 competitive games now, so I just want to get as many more as possible under my belt and hopefully it will all pay off.
“I was only just 17 when I went to Darlington, so that was a really good learning curve for me.
“I was playing in the reserves last season before I got the chance to go to Alfreton in February. I really enjoyed my football there and felt I played well.
“Burton was another step up, which really helped me, so I’m looking forward to this period now.
“Playing games really helps with confidence and as you get into the loan spell you can feel yourself learning and maturing as a keeper.
“You learn when to come for things and when not to, so I think maturity is one of the main things I’m gaining from these loan spells.
“The staff at Sunderland have just told me to do what they know I’m capable of doing. I’ll just keep my head down and be as good as I can be. Hopefully that will bring some good performances.”
Poyet spoke with Carlisle boss and ex-Sunderland midfielder Graham Kavanagh late last week to push the move through, to ensure Pickford could continue his progress with regular first-team football, rather than being limited to the Black Cats’ Under-21s.
Sunderland will cover the bulk of Pickford’s wages at Brunton Park, while there is a 24-hour recall clause in the teenager’s loan deal.
Meanwhile, Pickford’s U21 team-mate Duncan Watmore made his debut for Scottish Premiership outfit Hibernian in Saturday’s Scottish Cup upset to second tier visitors Raith Rovers.
Hibs boss, and former Sunderland manager, Terry Butcher admitted Watmore’s display was one of the few positives to emerge from the 3-2 defeat after the 19-year-old penned a loan deal north of the border on transfer deadline day.
“I felt sorry for Duncan Watmore, who was great, but the rest of them were poor,” said Easter Road boss Butcher.