By Matt Farr
Sunderland goalkeeping coach Adrian Tucker insists it took him just five minutes before he realised Jordan Pickford would be destined for the top.
The 23-year-old stopper drew the plaudits last season for a run of impressive displays for Sunderland, despite their relegation from the Premier League.
His excellent performances warranted significant interest from several of England’s elite clubs, with Everton winning the race for his signature in a £30million deal last week.
Pickford, who has yet to make his senior international debut for England, has been talked up as the future No.1 for the national side, and will rival Maarten Stekelenburg and Joel Robles for a similar role at Everton next term.
But his former Sunderland coach Tucker insists that his impressive form has come as little surprise, and delivered a glowing verdict of the talented youngster.
He told the Sun: “I remember I went to Yeovil to do a scouting report on him. I was working for England Under-20s at the time and Jordan was playing for Bradford.
“The game was only five minutes in when a cross came in and he got clattered by one of Yeovil’s strikers. He got up straight away, shook it off and did not show he was hurt. I thought to myself, ‘You’ll do for me, son.’
“The mental side of the game is probably his biggest strength. He’s a confident keeper without being arrogant, he believes in himself. His handling technique is good and his distribution is up there with the best in the world.”
A big test of Pickford’s mental strength next season will be how he copes with the expectation placed on his shoulders from his £30million price-tag, which makes him the most-expensive English goalkeeper of all-time.
The fee also lists him as the third most-expensive stopper in world football, behind Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon and Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer.
Pickford had risen through the academy ranks at Sunderland, spending much of his early days at the club on loan at other clubs, including Bradford, where Tucker first laid eyes on his talents.
He kept 10 clean sheets from 34 appearances in all competitions for Bradford during the 2014-15 season.
In other Everton news, fans on Twitter have delivered their verdicts to reported interest in this title-winning striker.