The 90’s were great. Away from the obvious nostalgia of Britpop, TFI Friday and the last period of time that double denim was acceptable, football was enduring a renaissance. The advent of the Premier League and Euro 96 are well documented but it was a great decade for goalkeepers with huge personalities. With Sunderland lacking leadership at the back, could we look to our goalkeeper to be our organiser? The kid who was still in nappy’s when New Labour came to power – Jordan Pickford.
The likes of Peter Schmeichel, Walter Zenga and David Seaman were real leaders from the back and in 2016 we find ourselves witnessing similar men between the sticks. Hugo Lloris often captains Spurs, David De Gea is one of Manchester United’s most influential players and people Manuel Neuer has came close to winning the Ballon D’or. While Pickford may not be at the level of the aforementioned three right now, he’s still very much in their mould.
Many, me included, have made statements that they’d like to see John O’Shea reintroduced to the starting XI. We know he can organise a ragtag back line, we know he’s a real leader when in the team and his experience in the game speaks for it self. What if he’s just simply not up to it any more though? Perhaps David Moyes has considered putting O’Shea back into the team but isn’t seeing enough in training to convince him he can still keep up with the pace and demand of the Premier League. This is just speculation, of course, but it may well be the reason he hasn’t been thrown in to defence that’s leaking goals and lacking a leader.
The one player no one can blame for our high amount of goals conceded is Pickford. Away at Tottenham, he kept the scoreline respectable and he hasn’t done himself any harm in any of the other matches he’s played in since the injury to Vito Mannone. What has been really remarkable and pleasing, is his extreme confidence. I love seeing him barking orders to his defenders as if to say “you idiots, I shouldn’t have to be doing this much work, I still look like I can get away with a half on the bus.” With Lamine Kone still not stepping up to the role of defensive leader vacated by Younes Kaboul and Papy Djilobodji looking desperate for guidance, it’s clear we need someone to provide it. Why not Pickford?
It wouldn’t be an unfair accusation to say that Pickford doesn’t need such extra responsibility and playing every week as a 22 year old goalkeeper is enough on his shoulders. He looks so confident though that I’m led to wondering whether or not he’d relish it. This is a goalkeeper who already plays like he has experience way beyond his years, meeting every cross, shot and through ball with an arrogance that seems to question why the opposition would even try and put the ball in his vicinity. When you factor in the England under-21 internationals phenomenal distribution, you realise his influence reaches far beyond his own box. It’s not too ridiculous to suggest we should harness that influence.
I’m not saying we need to give him the captains armband but something has to be done to address our problems in defence. This is a goalkeeper we have seen flourish when called upon, so why not reward his excellent performances by letting him know just how important he is to the team. A show of further faith in Pickford from Moyes could not just be beneficial for the player, but the whole team. Modern goalkeepers are leaders, let’s see if our rookie can step up to that challenge.