JORDAN PICKFORD is certainly not short of confidence.
The England keeper, preparing to make his World Cup bow against Tunisia on Monday, is convinced he has what it takes to match the absolute elite in his position.
Pickford, 24, who is coming off his first full season with Everton after joining from Sunderland last summer, believes his Premier League progress has been even quicker than David De Gea’s.
Manchester United keeper De Gea took a while to get going at Old Trafford after arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2011.
Spain stopper De Gea is a different beast these days, regarded as one of the best in the world after winning United’s Player of the Year award in four of the last five seasons.
Pickford said: “It took De Gea a while in the Premier League and I don’t think it has taken me that long to get to this level.
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“I am always learning and always wanting to improve. They’re the ones who have real experience — but that was only my second season in the Premier League.
“De Gea has been just unbelievable for the last two or three seasons. And, in my book, he is probably the best in the world at the minute.”
Pickford has done enough to convince England boss Gareth Southgate that he is ready for a World Cup campaign.
He likes Pickford’s stature and presence, plus his determination to get to the very top.
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He also got the nod ahead of Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland because of his superior ability with the ball at his feet.
Southgate likes the idea of a sweeper-keeper, with Pickford willing and able to take risks when England’s defenders start playing ping-pong around the penalty area.
Watching an England keeper trying tricks on the edge of the area takes some getting used to.
Manuel Neuer has been doing it for years with Bayern Munich and Germany, mastering the art and redefining the position.
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Pickford added: “Neuer is one I really admire because he plays the role in his own way.
“You have got to play it your own way — but he takes it to the next level.”
The eyes of the nation will be on Pickford when he steps out for England in Volgograd on Monday.
He is still waiting for official confirmation that he is England’s first choice — but the No 1 shirt on his back for the tournament should be enough.
Pickford added: “Getting the No 1 jersey was massive but I have still not been given the actual nod yet.
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“I have to train well, yet hopefully starting the friendly against Nigeria has put me in pole position.”
The Three Lions keeper’s jersey has a chequered past, with various stars struggling to cope with the demands of being England’s first choice.
Back in 2010, Rob Green’s nerves were shredded before the opening game against the USA when Fabio Capello dithered over a final decision. His howler led to England drawing 1-1.
Under Southgate, there is clarity. Pickford added: “The shirt has massive history.
“Now I am part of that, hopefully I can do it justice. I just hope I have the chance to wear this shirt for a long time.”