Glove choice delights PNE coach Kelly

Chris Kirkland
Chris Kirkland
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Alan Kelly is pleased with the strength and depth of Preston North End’s goalkeeping pool as the Lilywhites prepare to resume Championship action this weekend.

PNE’s experienced keeper coach will welcome Jordan Pickford back from duty with the England Under-21 side ahead of Saturday’s game against Derby County.

During the international break, back-up keepers Chris Kirkland and Jamie Jones both saw action.

Kirkland played in a behind closed doors game at Wigan last week, with Jones between the posts for Monday night’s Lancashire Senior Cup defeat to Everton at Southport.

“With Jordan, Chris, Jamie and Steven James, I have got a really good bunch of keepers to work with here,” Kelly told the Evening Post.

“Chris Kirkland came in last month, his experience and enthusiasm in training and in the dressing room has been superb.

“He is a remarkable man, every day in training he wants more and more work, and sometimes I have to hold him back a bit.

“Chris has really enhanced the goalkeeping group that we have got.

“In terms of him and Jamie we had a bit of rotation in the games we played during the international break.

“Last week, Chris played at Wigan and Jamie played the match on Monday night.

“We were disappointed to lose that game but Jamie made some really good one-on-one saves so he got something out of it.”

Kelly got a first-hand view of Pickford’s England Under-21s debut last Thursday.

He played an hour of the 1-0 win over USA Under-23s at Deepdale.

Pickford quickly got another dose of football at that level, England winning 1-0 in Norway on Monday night to get their Euro 2017 qualifying campaign off to a good start.

The two clean sheets with England have added to the solid start made by Pickford at Preston following his arrival from Sunderland on loan.

North End turned to him having tracked Sam Johnstone for much of the close season, ultimately being unable to prise Johnstone away from Manchester United.

Said Kelly: “One of my jobs is to come up with suggestions and alternatives for keepers when the manager asks what is available.

“We have found a fantastic goalkeeper in Jordan.

“I remember him playing at Deepdale for Carlisle a couple of seasons ago.

“While we won 6-1 that day, what I liked about him was his attitude in terms of while it was not going well, he stood up to be counted.

“He went to Bradford on loan last season and did really well for them, so we were delighted to get him.

“It has been a good few weeks for Jordan, the two clean sheets he kept for England adding to the start he has made for us.

“We all saw him play here against USA last Thursday, then to go over to Norway and play well on Monday will have been great for his confidence.

“People talk about Jordan’s kicking and I have to say he has got one of the best left foots I have seen on a keeper.

“His development will include knowing how to use that to full effect, it is a fantastic weapon and is something we really want to harness.

“If someone says his kicks are just a punt, they are wrong.

“Jordan can drive a ball and deliver it with pinpoint accuracy.

“It is a hell of a tactical tool for the manager here to be able to call on and is something we can work on.”