PNE boss gets a kick out of keeper

Pickford makes a save during the game against Rotherham
Pickford makes a save during the game against Rotherham
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The way goalkeeper Jordan Pickford can strike a football so sweetly with his left peg has had Preston manager Simon Grayson wondering whether he is wasted in goal.

One of the most notable aspects of the 21-year-old’s performances this season, since arriving on loan from Sunderland over the summer, has been his ability with the ball at his feet.

Equally adept at clearing danger with either foot, Pickford is able to put North End on the attack when he has got time and space to make use of that trusty left foot.

Whether he is passing a short ball to his defenders or launching it long to put the opposition defence under attack, Pickford has displayed unerring accuracy in his first six games of the season.

Grayson admits the youngster – who was this week named by Gareth Southgate in the England Under-21s squad to play USA Under-23s at Deepdale on Thursday – can strike a football as sweetly as anybody in his squad.

“Jordan should be in the team playing outfield to be fair,” said Grayson with a mischievous grin.

“He strikes the ball probably better than one or two who start .

“He does handle the ball with his feet very well, but I think that is just the sign of a modern-day goalkeeper.

“I think if our goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly could have kicked it like Jordan can when he was playing, he might have been worth a few more quid.

“Jordan’s kicking is a tool we try to use and the defenders have no qualms about giving it back to him.”

Pickford believes his excellent kicking skills are a result of a childhood playing as a central midfielder as well as between the sticks.

“When I played at school, I played outfield – in midfield,” Pickford revealed.

“I’ve played in goal since the age of six, but I’ve always enjoyed playing outfield.

“I think it was my brother who stuck me in goal and I’ve just stayed there since.

“Obviously it’s different playing outfield than as a goalkeeper and that’s where I got used to playing with my feet.

“I used to just go on the field with my mates and kick balls.

“That’s the way you learn...different techniques and stuff as you get older. I like using the side volley which is good for counter attacking football.

“It’s something I have learned over the years and that’s something which has come into football.

“The first goalkeeper I have seen using the side volley was Pepe Reina. I think I have been quite good on either foot, but obviously the left foot...there’s a bit more power in it.

“Predominently I like to play with my left foot but my right is just as clean when I need it, so I can use either foot.

“Being good with your feet is one of the main things now being a goalkeeper.

“A lot of teams like to play out from the back and you’ve also got to have a little bit of the longer pass as well.

“Being at Sunderland since I was very young, I’ve obviously had it drilled into me from a young age.

“At Sunderland, we used to join in at training and do all the little drills, so that’s all been good for me.”

Pickford admits it was a very proud moment for himself when he received the international 
call -up from Southgate.

He has played at every 
age group for his country from Under-16s level.

He is in pole position to start against the USA and the first European Championship qualifier agains Norway at the Marienlyst Stadion, Drammen on Monday September 7.

“It’s really good expecially with the game being at Deepdale.,” Pickford.

“I am proud as well...it’s my first call up for the Under-21s.

“I have played at every age group for England right the way through.

“To get to the Under-21s is the next big step .”

Pickford has represented England on some big occasions and in different countries.

“I remember the Victory Shield playing against the home nations.

“It was live on Sky Sports and it was really cool, especially as a 15-year-old.

“All my mates from school were watching.

“At Under-17s level I played in the European finals in Serbia and we also had the World Cup in Mexico, which was a massive experience.

“I have played with people like Raheem Sterling and the biggest player I have played against so far for England was Emre Can, of Germany, who is at Liverpool now.”

Having kept four clean sheets in six league and cup games for North End this season, Pickford is hoping to add to that when he steps out at the KC Stadium to take on Hull City on Saturday.

“This is what Championship football is all about,” Pickford said.

“We have started the season well. We put in agreat performance in midweek against Watford in the cup.

“Hull have just come down from the Premier League – it’s going to be a big test for us.

“Obviously, they are a good side, but we are a good side so we are just going to have to see what happens.”