It's time for Nick Pope & Dean Henderson to rescue England from Jordan Pickford

18 March 2021 10:00

As much as they deny it whenever they're asked the question, every single football manager in the world has their favourites.

From the coach of an Under-9s side continuously playing his talentless son as a centre-forward, right the way up to England manager Gareth Southgate persisting with the occasionally comical Jordan Pickford, there's just no getting away from the fact that some players are always a shoo-in for a place in the starting XI.

Now, the first of those two scenarios is a little irritating but kind of understandable, but the latter of the two is in danger of seriously hampering England's chances of international tournament success.

And wouldn't it just be quintessential England to boast one of the most talented crop of players at a major tournament for many a year, and yet get dumped out at the quarter-final stage because of a goalkeeping error?

However, it might not have to be this way.

With the delayed Euro 2020 tournament kicking off in less than three months time, England begin their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign against San Marino on Thursday without first-choice goalkeeper Pickford.

Jordan Pickford has struggled to eliminate basic errors from his game | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The 27-year-old has been ruled out of the Three Lions' upcoming clashes after picking up a knock in the Toffees' recent defeat to Burnley, leaving Nick Pope, Dean Henderson and Sam Johnstone to fight it out for the number one spot.

It seems pretty likely that West Brom goalkeeper Johnstone has purely been called up to make up the numbers, meaning either Pope or Henderson will be handed the number one jersey for the next few games.

With an unexpected chance to impress the England boss prior to Euro 2020, both goalkeepers have been handed a glorious opportunity to stake their claim as the England number one, and boy do we need them to produce the goods.

It would be unjust to completely ignore Pickford's recent run of form for Everton, with the former Sunderland man producing a number of fine performances to aid Carlo Ancelotti's side's push for a Champions League place.

Dean Henderson has been handed his chance in David de Gea's absence | Pool/Getty Images

But the simple fact of the matter is, he cannot be trusted.

Time and time again he's been found wanting on the big stage, with lapses in concentration costing both Everton on numerous occasions, and it's simply impossible to believe you have a genuine chance of success at a major international tournament with such an unreliable number one goalkeeper.

For England it must be said that he has been fairly reliable, but it is only a matter of time before he makes a costly error on the big stage.

Admittedly, Pickford is the most technically gifted of the three shot-stoppers with the ball at his feet too, but unfortunately his errors have become so frequent that he's far more likely to cost his side a goal than he is to play a key part in either the setup of a goal or his side's controlling of the game.

Both Henderson and Pope have proven themselves to be able to perform consistently at a high level over the past couple of season, and while they may not be able to produce sumptuous volleyed clearances that have commentators swooning, they're both far more reliable when it comes to completing the basics of goalkeeping compared to Pickford.

Nick Pope has looked solid yet again for Burnley this season | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Despite the fact Southgate's hand has been forced in fielding an alternative goalkeeper due to Pickford's injury, international bosses often take the opportunity to test different personnel shortly before heading to a major tournament, so this is hardly a huge disruption to the England boss' plans.

However, the one thing this does offer Southgate is the chance to see Pope and Henderson in competitive action for England instead of just throwing them into a meaningless friendly with Jamaica, with the delay of Euro 2020 meaning the 2022 World Cup qualifiers kick off before the European Championships have even been played.

Therefore, with three competitive fixtures to play before the end of March, it's not totally implausible that either Henderson or Pope could actually convince Southgate they're the man for the job as England prepare for the kick off of Euro 2020 in June.

It may have taken some time but we might have finally found something good to come out of this coronavirus pandemic, because if England head to the European Championship with Pickford as their number one goalkeeper, you can wave goodbye to the Three Lions having any chance of tasting success.

Source: 90min