PNE keeper keeps mind on the job

Jordan Pickford is on loan at Preston from Sunderland
Jordan Pickford is on loan at Preston from Sunderland
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Jordan Pickford is happy to keep his focus on Preston North End’s fight for points at the foot of the Championship, rather than be distracted by events at his parent club Sunderland.

The Black Cats appointed Sam Allardyce as manager during the recent international break, replacing Dick Advocaat who stepped down.

But it is business as usual for Pickford, the goalkeeper now well into the third month of a season-long loan at Deepdale.

That business next involves back-to-back away games, at Charlton and then on to Brighton on Saturday.

Pickford heads south for the long-distance double header having kept his first Preston clean sheet since August.

“I obviously hear about what is happening back at Sunderland, with them being the club I’m on loan from,” said Pickford.

“The goalkeeper coach has stayed, so has the assistant first-team coach Paul Bracewell – people who I have contact with.

“So things are not that different from my point of view.

“To be honest, there have been quite a few changes of manager since I joined Sunderland.

“What I need to do is keep my focus on doing well here at Preston.

“In the summer I could have stayed at Sunderland but the previous manager and sporting director thought I would benefit from being out on loan and playing matches.

“I’m only 21, time is on my side and I’m still learning about the game.

“It is down to me to do well with Preston, put in consistent performances and push on.”

North End are the sixth club who the England Under-21s shot-stopper has spent time on loan with.

Each time the bar has been raised in terms of the level he has played at.

His loan experience started as a 17-year-old at Darlington and Alferton in non-league, and he then progressed to play in League Two at Burton, then in League One with Carlisle and Bradford.

Joining up with PNE has given the Wearside lad his first taste of the Championship.

Arguably, he has been the pick of North End’s incoming business since promotion and is enjoying his time here.

Said Pickford: “Going out on loan has been a massive thing in my career so far.

“It is up to me to make the step forward each time and I think I have done that.

“The more games I play, the more I will mature and the more I mature, the better I will become as a goalkeeper.

“With each loan move, things do get a bit easier when it comes to adapting to a new club.

“At Darlington and then Alferton, I was 17 and getting smashed each week by the opposition players.

“Playing men’s football when only a teenager was a learning curve.

“Then I went to Burton who were in League Two and I found that quite difficult, still being a young lad.

“I found going to Carlisle a bit easier and then Bradford the same.

“Being at Preston is good – okay we are not getting the results but a good run isn’t far away, I’m sure of that.

“Alan Kelly is top-drawer to work with, he has all that experience and passes it on to me in the training sessions.

“I do a lot of technical work and performance-wise, it is down to me to get that right.

“Kells work on the mental side with me too, helping me add that extra couple of percent to my game.”

Pickford was happy with his clean sheet in the goalless draw against Cardiff at the weekend.

He was the slightly busier of the two keepers, his save from Peter Whittingham’s free-kick 11 minutes from time helping earn North End their point.

“It was nice to keep the clean sheet because I hadn’t kept one for a while at Preston, although I have had three for England Under-21s recently.

“If you keep a clean sheet, you just need one chance to go in at the other end to win.

“I was pleased with the save from the free-kick in the Cardiff game.

“I set the wall up to cover the left-hand side of the goal, knowing it would be quite hard for him to get the ball over the wall and back down if he went to that side.

“I put myself on the other side of the goal and that helped me get down by the post to push it behind.

“That is part of the job – I’ve been doing a lot of reaction stuff with Kells and it paid off.”

Pickford’s next assignment is to try and keep it clean against a Charlton side who are within reach of PNE after sliding down the table of late.

Who plays in front of him at The Valley will depend on news from the physio’s room, with Tom Clarke almost certainly ruled out by a shoulder injury and Paul Huntington still struggling with a hamstring strain.

It might be a case of Bailey Wright and Calum Woods forming the centre-back pairing.

Said Pickford: “Whoever plays in front of me, I am quite used to how they play and they know my game.

“All the lads have played in the team at some stage this season, earlier on we played a three with Bailey, Hunts and Tom all in there.

“We all have trust in each other to play well.”