Jordan Pickford is at a crossroads and has a huge three months coming up.
On Saturday, the Everton stopper sprawled across the goal and made himself as big as possible to deny Christian Benteke at point-blank range with a world-class stop. Only ten minutes earlier, he’d let a tame effort from the same player slip under his body.
This sums up the goalkeeper right now - he is so capable of the amazing but, every now and then, he’ll make the wrong decision which proves costly. So full of energy and eager to impress, these traits have actually become his downfall with his all action displays causing him to be rash and erratic.
Up and down kicking too has invited pressure on his team-mates and currently, he is not the calming influence the defenders in front of him require. The man between the sticks often comes under far more scrutiny than anyone else on the pitch though Pickford has pointed to another reason as to why his mistakes will always be a focus.
"Everyone hates you, for some reason, that's part of being an England player," he told the media after the Toffees’ victory over Crystal Palace; Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin goals getting him off the hook after his mistake.
"I think the press and everybody, the punters - look at Gary Neville - they just want to come for England players. Look at Joe Hart when he was number one. He got pelters every week,"
"You have got to live with it, you have got to learn. I know what I am capable of and I know what I am good at. It's funny because everyone raves about you when you are with England but then you get back to your club and everyone wants to slate you.
"As a person, I don't let it affect me."
That mental toughness and faith in his ability means he will never be weighed down and will always look forward, striving to improve and be the best. However, it’s clear some talk does get through his bold exterior.
"You just keep it away from your head as the only person who can sort things out is yourself as an individual, on the pitch and in training. It's looking after things on the pitch for Everton that is my main aim. That gets you picked for England.”
Saying that, strange as it may sound, it is his position as England’s number one ahead of the Euros that is perhaps more secure than his role for Everton.
After 3ï¸â£4ï¸â£ PL matches without a goal, Christian Benteke will be seriously relieved ð
All even at Goodison...
It was his penalty heroics against Colombia and a string of stunning saves at the World Cup in 2018 which helped the Three Lions reach the semi-finals. Credit is in the bank for his country under manager Gareth Southgate.
However, at Goodison Park, he is having to prove himself all over again to new manager Carlo Ancelotti. Having worked with the very best, the Italian will not hesitate in making bold calls in looking for a new stopper if Pickford is not up to the task.
Joining in 2017, the £30m Everton paid made him the most expensive British goalkeeper in history. He impressed during his maiden season though over time, some sections of the fanbase have lost a little faith and are starting to doubt whether Pickford is the right man for the job if the Blues are to win silverware and start challenging for the top four and beyond.
A Sunderland fan, he started his career there and took plenty of abuse when the Toffees went away to Newcastle in April 2019. It was how he reacted to that which first made Evertonians wonder about his long-term credentials.
Conceding a penalty and lucky to escape a red card, he then played up to the crowd as the Toffees took the lead before it backfired as Everton squandered a 2-0 advantage to lose 3-2.
Admitting the vitriol from the Magpies’ supporters did ‘get to him’, it was an alarming capitulation from Everton. Since then, any slight error adds more doubt in the minds who watch him week in, week out.
Turning 26 in less than a month, Pickford must restore a reputation to it’s maximum before it really starts to be dented.
While Pickford will always ignore outside noise, it’s come to the time where he himself needs to analyse his current form and put himself under the spotlight. His Everton and England future depends on it.