Jordan Pickford has earned England No.1 spot says ex-PNE keeper coach Alan Kelly

Alan Kelly with Jordan Pickford in their PNE days
Alan Kelly with Jordan Pickford in their PNE days

Former Preston North End goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly has wished Jordan Pickford the best of luck as he goes in search of a World Cup semi-final place with England today.

Pickford worked closely with Kelly when he spent five months on loan with PNE in 2015.

Jordan Pickford saves a penalty from Colombia's Carlos Bacca during the shootout

Jordan Pickford saves a penalty from Colombia's Carlos Bacca during the shootout

That loan spell, in which he made 27 appearances, was a key stage of his development.

It was the highest level of club football he had played at, while Pickford also made his England Under-21s debut when with PNE – against the United States at Deepdale.

Pickford, 24, was one of the heroes of England’s win over Colombia on Tuesday night.

He saved a penalty in the shootout, allowing Eric Dier to net the winner.

England play Sweden this afternoon in the last eight in Samara.

Kelly told the Post: “Jordan is a great keeper and a strong character too.

“He took a bit of stick after the Belgium game last week but that won’t have upset him.

“Against Colombia, Jordan made two fantastic saves.

“There was the one right at the end when he pushed the shot around the post.

“If that had gone in, it would have been goal of the tournament.

“Jordan flew like a salmon to reach the shot but it hardly got showed again as Colombia scored from the corner.

“The penalty save was a good one, it was a strong arm and obviously so important.

“All the credit for Jordan being the England keeper is down to him.

“If it’s said that others and myself have helped him, that’s fantastic.

“But Jordan has had the sheer willpower to get to be England’s No.1.

“I think England can win against Sweden – the Swedes are organised and disciplined but there’s nothing to fear.”

Kelly, now employed by Everton working with their keepers at Under-23s level and younger, went to the World Cup twice with the Republic of Ireland.

He was in the squad for the 1994 tournament in the USA and again in 2002.

But he did not get to play in either and also missed out in another way on Italia ’90.

Said Kelly: “I was at Preston in 1990 and one of the cover keepers got a bit of an injury.

“The final warm-up game before the squad left for Italy was against Nigeria.

“I got called in to sit on the bench and after the game Jack Charlton came in and said everyone in that dressing room was going to the World Cup.

“I put my hand up and asked if that meant me, to which Jack said, ‘You dopey so-and-so, I didn’t mean you!’

“I went to Euro 2012 with Ireland as keeper coach, which was great.”