Preston North End's fond memories of England hero Jordan Pickford
There was a sense of pride among Preston North End fans as they watched Jordan Pickford keep a fourth clean sheet in a row as England beat Germany to reach the quarter-finals of the Euros.
Not quite a case of being made in Preston, but the goalkeeper’s development came on leaps and bounds in the five months he spent at Deepdale in 2015.
Pickford has kept it clean for England throughout the Euros, with Croatia, Scotland, Czech Republic and now Germany unable to find a way past him.
The aim now is a fifth successive shut-out when England meet Ukraine in Rome on Saturday night.
PNE moved for Pickford’s services late in July 2015 as they readied themselves for the Championship.
Much of that summer had been spent playing a waiting game for Sam Johnstone, the goalkeeper who was between the posts as North End were promoted via the League One play-offs.
Johnstone ended up not becoming available for a loan from Manchester United at that time, Preston instead turning to Pickford who was then at Sunderland.
It was a sixth loan spell for Pickford and his arrival didn’t immediately catch the imagination of some sections of the PNE faithful who had been expecting Johnstone to return.
Minds were soon turned as Pickford began to show his pedigree.
He kept six clean sheets in a row over the space of a month in October and November 2015.
In fact he could boast 12 shut-outs in his 24 league appearances for PNE, with a 13th in the League Cup.
Although signed on a season-long loan, Sunderland had a recall clause in the deal and triggered that in early January 2016.
Johnstone came back for a month to cover his return, the Preston-born keeper now Pickford’s main cover in the England squad.
A £25m move took Pickford to Everton in July 2017, with him now beyond the 160-game mark for them.
Speaking after the 2-0 win over Germany at Wembley, Pickford said: “We knew how hard it was going to be and we showed our character.
“We didn’t stop defending as a unit and when you have the quality we have up front, you only need one chance.
“It is about clean sheets in tournament football and we’ve kept another one.
“We did our job to get over the line and we’ve got to get ready for another big game on Saturday.”
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