England vs Czech Republic: Jordan Pickford keeping calm and collected under the spotlight

Jordan Pickford has had a difficult time recently, with one high-profile nightmare against Newcastle United raising questions about his form and focus. So is there any prospect of him letting doubts and worry into his head, starting to question himself, and starting to overthink? No chance. “I can’t overthink me, lad,” he replied when asked at Wembley on Thursday afternoon.

This was classic Pickford. Breezily confident, straight-forward, able to keep himself focused on what actually matters: saves and clean sheets and whoever he is playing next. This was the Pickford who was so brilliant at the World Cup, especially against Colombia and Sweden, and who Southgate will continue to trust as England embark on the next cycle. He will start against Czech Republic at Wembley this evening, the start of England’s Euro 2020 campaign. Southgate, clearly, is not worried by his goalkeeper’s form. And neither is Pickford himself.

“I think it’s just me as a person,” Pickford said. “Nothing really affects me. That’s from being brought-up well by my parents and where we’re from, and we’re a hard working family. And I think that’s where my mentality comes from as well.”

Goalkeepers need a different type of mentality from outfield players and Pickford has never exactly been prone to meticulous over-analysis of his own game. Of course he wants to play better from one game to the next but if he does make a mistake it never gets inside his head and breeds the same anxiety and questions that other players face. No doubts, just confidence for the task ahead.

“No, I never go into a game with any doubts,” Pickford said. “I always feel confident in my ability and hopefully I can be strong mentally. I would say that’s one of the strongest parts of my game. That’s never going to distract me from the game. Sometimes maybe it just doesn’t go right in the game but that’s football and I think I’m definitely improving game by game and getting more experience is good.”

This inherent confidence is why Pickford is still such an avid user of social media. He is busy on Twitter and Instagram and admitted that he will check his phone as soon as he can after games to see what people are saying about him. Many players would not do that because the criticism would hurt them but Pickford is confident enough not to especially worry about it. He just lets it all bounce off him.

“It’s just social media really at the end of the day,” Pickford shrugged. “You see it all on Twitter and stuff, and if you don’t laugh you cry, don’t you?”

Some players do not want to open the floodgates to the outside world and all of the hatred and abuse that exists online. Pickford is happy enough to let it all wash over him.

“It’s weird, because when you turn your phone on, the first thing you do is go on Twitter or Instagram and see what you’ve been mentioned in. But every footballer is different, and every sports person is different. People read them and have a laugh, people read them and maybe get offended by them, and people might think about that and think how can I get better and not get the criticism? I would just say that everyone is different in the social media aspect. Some people don’t have it.”

And if it did bother Pickford, he would simply switch it off. “No, it doesn’t wind me up at all,” he said. “Or else I would, like you say, just close the door on it. I don’t mind it at all, I just let it run. Sometimes you get good stick and sometimes you get back stick, it’s all just about how you deal with it.”

This is Pickford’s way of dealing with suddenly being one of the most famous players in the league, the unlikely cult hero of England’s World Cup and likely their number one for years to come. He knows he got distracted at Newcastle United – letting too much interaction into his head – but he also knows to move on from that quickly enough. “Maybe I am in the spotlight a bit more, which is new for me,” he said. “But it doesn’t affect me in the game, and I’ve just got to not let that criticism affect me and I’ve just got to perform when it comes to game day.”

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