Alex McLeish has claimed Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti dropped Jordan Pickford against Newcastle United to “sharpen him up”.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Scotland manager insisted the England international needed pressure taken off him.

Pickford has come under scrutiny all season, most recently for his challenge on Virgil van Dijk in the Merseyside derby earlier this month that has ruled out the Dutchman for the season.

Everton have not kept a Premier League clean sheet since the opening day of the season and Pickford’s goalkeeping has been questioned.

Since his arrival in 2017, the former Sunderland stopper had not missed a league game for the Toffees until the trip to Newcastle on Sunday.

Ancelotti said after the game that Pickford will be back Everton’s next game against Manchester United and was just being rested.

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Asked if he thought Ancelotti was warning the 26-year-old of his place in the side, McLeish told Football Insider: “Yeah, possibly to sharpen him up altogether.

“Maybe, when you think of the bad publicity he got for the challenge the other week (on van Dijk) maybe he was feeling it. Maybe the manager, coach, saw him in training and thought he was a little bit down on himself.

“He’s human, he took a lot of stick for that and possibly Pickford needed to get a wee bit of relief and pressure taken off him a wee bit. It could have been down to a managerial decision like that.”

 

Pickford has kept 38 clean sheets in 137 games across all competitions for Everton.

When he moved to Goodison three years ago, the £25million fee that the Toffees paid represented the third most expensive fee ever for a goalkeeper.

In other Everton news, a huge injury development is “great news”, according to a top pundit.