Dave seddon’s pressview

Preston North End's Jordan Pickford punches clear under pressure from Burnley's Andre Gray last weekend

Preston North End's Jordan Pickford punches clear under pressure from Burnley's Andre Gray last weekend

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It is looking increasingly likely that we are entering a period when we should be cherishing the time Jordan Pickford has left at Deepdale before he heads back home to the Stadium of Light.

The probability of him being recalled from Preston by Sunderland is high, there being a clause in the loan deal which allows that for the first few days of January.

Black Cats manager Sam Allardyce admitted on Thursday that Pickford being summoned back was something he was considering.

Indeed, Big Sam revealed he had discussed the young keeper with Simon Grayson when the managers had met at the North West Sports’ Writers dinner last Sunday.

Of course, until the official recall email lands in Preston’s inbox, we can cling to the hope that Pickford remains untouched in Lancashire.

However, life after Pickford is being planned for behind the scenes at North End.

That, ideally, would be in the shape of Sam Johnstone, someone well known already in these parts and time-served.

More of him later, just for now let us look at Pickford’s four-and-a-half months to date in the PNE goalkeeper jersey.

His signing on July 31 was somewhat out of the blue, no build-up, no speculation, no leaks on social media.

All summer we had waited for Johnstone’s anticipated return from Manchester United, his progress on their American tour scrutinised.

Then Pickford appeared, signed on a Friday evening and given his debut in a downpour at Bury the next afternoon.

His pedigree of being at Sunderland’s academy since he was eight and having played for England at various age levels was carefully noted by some people.

Others chose to lament the fact Johnstone had not returned, viewing Pickford as an inferior second choice.

Three clean sheets in the first three Championship games suggested the signing was along the right lines.

And as the season has progressed, Pickford has demonstrated what a good, up-and-coming keeper he is.

While it has never been a case of him having to make save upon save in any one game, you could look back at most matches in the last couple of months and pick out a really top-drawer stop he made.

Most recently, his tip on to the bar to deny Sam Vokes at Burnley stands-out.

Against Fulham a fortnight ago, there was Moussa Dembele’s deflected chip which he reached and gloved over the top.

There were two or three good saves in the 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest, a decent late one from Gary Madine when Bolton visited, a couple in the first half at Brighton.

Bearing all that in mind, it is understandable that Preston fans are frustrated at talk of his likely departure.

Looking at things from the Sunderland perspective, you can see why Allardyce wants him back on Wearside.

Pickford is their player and Allardyce has not yet had a chance to work with him.

It seems like their current No.2 keeper Vito Mannone wants away in January, so a replacement might be needed.

If that ends up being the case and Pickford returns to sit on the bench, it would be annoying from a North End perspective.

From what I hear, it might be more a case of Sunderland having him back for January before he is loaned out again in February.

That would hardly be the ideal scenario for Preston, in that it would require keeper cover to be sought for January.

And was he to return during the loan window, any deal would be limited to 93 days and they would be vulnerable to another recall.

So the attention turns back on a potential second coming for Johnstone, a resurrection of the deal they tried so long to put together in July.

To coin a phrase from the BBC, other goalkeepers are available, but you know what you are getting with the lad.

Raised in Leyland, schooled in football at United, he played a big part in North End’s promotion last season.

A permanent deal would bring longer-term security in the Deepdale goalkeeping department, although it might have to be a loan again –to start with anyway.

Let us enjoy Pickford these next few weeks and if indeed he does head home, follow his progress with interest.

There is a fine keeper there in the making and do not be surprised to see him go far.

He has not stepped up to the England Under-21s by accident and a natural progression will surely be to senior level in time.

In January, it might well be a case of saying ‘play it again Sam’ – a fine replacement.