When England secured a place in their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years, the nation celebrated – naturally. The Three Lions are a team capable of ramping up the patriotism and yet disappointing when a major tournament rolls around. During this World Cup, however, they have done exactly what has been expected of them, and now only Croatia stand between them and a first World Cup final in 52 years. Social media has been abuzz for the last few weeks, fans all over the world claiming that football is indeed finally coming home, 22 years after it was predicted to do so by Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and Lightning Seeds. That hasn’t been the only internet meme to go viral though, as a string of tweets about a certain player has excited the nation once again.
That man is none other than England stopper Jordan Pickford, who has won the hearts of the England support with some heroic displays over the course of the tournament. He has pulled off truly world class saves during the matches in Russia, and became England’s youngest ever goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet at a World Cup when England beat Sweden 2-0 on Saturday in the quarter-finals. Pickford pulled off three great saves, having shown his quality in the previous outing against Sweden as well. The Euro Fantasy League Podcast received a message from a listener stating that Pickford was even better than legendary custodian Peter Shilton – a bold statement indeed!
While the resulting poll is still running it does seem that the majority of England supporters agree with that sentiment, and the #thingsJordanPickfordCouldSave hashtag proving particularly entertaining. The best ones so far include PS2 games without a memory card, dinosaurs, and (amusingly) Jack Rodwell’s ego. Nevertheless, England has found it’s new treasure, and it is in the guise of a player who just a few short weeks ago had little in the way of support for his claim for the number 1 jersey. Having come through the ranks at struggling Sunderland, Pickford moved to Everton for £25m following the Black Cats’ relegation from the Premier League in 2017. A rough first season ensued at Everton, and while Pickford was scarcely held at fault for that it did leave many neutrals assuming Gareth Southgate had better options at his disposal.
Southgate’s decision to go with Pickford ahead of Nick Pope and Jack Butland now looks inspired. That may seem a touch unfair on Pope and Butland considering they haven’t had a chance to prove themselves on the pitch so far at the World Cup, but it seems difficult to argue that Pickford has been a revolution and secured himself support for the role moving forward. He isn’t a keeper that tends to keep many clean sheets overall, but much of that could arguably stem from the quality of defence in front of him. With players like John Stones and fellow breakout star Harry Maguire in front of him, England’s defence keeps looking better and better, which of course offers real cause for optimism.
It usually takes a wonderful strike to beat him, and with his talent and maturity on the field he could be up for this summer’s Golden Glove award too. The future is certainly bright for the 24-year-old, whose star has shone even brighter than most this summer.
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