Jordan Pickford’s three backups for Euro 2020 have only ONE cap between them

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Jeepers keepers! Jordan Pickford’s three backups for Euro 2020 have only ONE limit between them … options are scarce with Dean Henderson and Sam Johnstone not ready to intervene and Aaron Ramsdale ready to be removed from the blown up squad

Gareth Southgate’s England team has improved in many ways since they took everyone by surprise by reaching the final four of the 2018 World Cup. But in one position they have not improved.

Jordan Pickford is arguably no better goalkeeper than he was three years ago. There have been times this season when his position at Everton seemed to be in jeopardy.

But at England, his place is safer than just about anyone else – except perhaps captain Harry Kane – although that says little about him and a lot about the lack of credible alternatives to this summer’s European Championship.

Jordan Pickford is arguably no better player than he was three years ago for Euro 2020

As Southgate hinted on Tuesday, the England goalkeeper is in a strange place. It’s a bit stuck between the death of one generation and the maturation of the next.

That’s no one’s fault, but that’s the reality and with that in mind, Burnley’s Nick Pope’s recent injury feels like quite a blow.

Not that the Pope would have started against Croatia on June 13 in Wembley. Pickford just about held it together long enough to get selected.

Nick Pope may not have started against Croatia on June 13, but his injury is quite a blow

Nick Pope may not have started against Croatia on June 13, but his injury is quite a blow

But Pope would have provided some kind of comfort blanket in that position. The three goalkeepers selected alongside Pickford only have a single cap between them, meaning that if something were to happen to England’s No. 1, things would feel very meager indeed.

Southgate has felt unhappy in this position. Blessed further on in his team by the emergence of talented, well-coached ball players, he has seen Jack Butland and Tom Heaton take steps back into goal.

Elsewhere, Ben Foster doesn’t want to play and Joe Hart’s slide from the top of the mountain to the foothills was extraordinary. Hart is only 34.

So Southgate has to hope for some good form from Pickford this summer and some luck too. Dean Henderson and Sam Johnstone are both extremely talented goalkeepers, but just don’t look ready.

Dean Henderson is an exceptionally talented goalkeeper, but just doesn't look like an intervention

Dean Henderson is an exceptionally talented goalkeeper, but just doesn’t look like an intervention

Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale, meanwhile, will be removed from this bloated group as soon as Southgate announces its hand of 26 next Tuesday.

While addressing the matter, Southgate said he believed Pickford had shown good form at Everton at the end of the season. He was forthright with the others.

“It doesn’t make me nervous because they are the best we have and they are the best out there,” he said. ‘We are very unhappy with the situation with Pope. He’s the one we gave those more recent hats to.

‘We have known for a while that the goalkeeper situation internationally is unusually inexperienced for us.

‘The more experienced players have come out of their club teams and even those guys are limited caps. You have to go back to Joe Hart and maybe Fraser Forster.

Sheffield United's Aaron Ramsdale will soon be removed from Gareth Southgate's blown-up squad

Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale will soon be removed from Gareth Southgate’s blown-up squad

So we have to go with the next generation and give them the experiences. We know Jordan has great experience with us and we need to prepare the others as best we can. ‘

Pickford is a strange mix of instinctual brilliance and terrifying unpredictability. He may care a little too much about what people think of him, which is both endearing and vaguely dangerous.

Now at 27 and getting close to what his peak years should be, Pickford hears every word of criticism or analysis, which is not always good practice before and during a major tournament.

“I’m not worried about Pickford,” Southgate said. ‘I think he ended the season very well. I know the team had a tough afternoon in Manchester City on Sunday, but he showed a real calmness that I liked.

Southgate has had the bad luck with some choices among the sticks that take backward strides

Southgate has had the bad luck with some choices among the sticks that take backward strides

“His performances were very focused, his goalkeeping was good.”

Southgate seemed to choose his words there carefully and on purpose. Pickford’s natural ability has rarely been questioned. He can make brilliant saves.

His tendency to become overly emotional and make rash decisions threatened to hold him back.

Pickford's natural ability has rarely been questioned, but his rash decisions can hold him back

Pickford’s natural ability has rarely been questioned, but his rash decisions can hold him back

He has 30 English caps, which means rapid progress as he only made his debut seven months or so before the last World Cup.

He played more than his part in Russia, not least with that penalty shootout except against Colombia. Some saw it as the future, while others were more wary.

The responsibility this summer will be considerable.

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