Jordan Pickford could be part of another record-breaking England backline on Wednesday night as he singled out his decision-making as his biggest improvement in recent months.
If the Three Lions can avoid conceding during their World Cup qualifier in Poland on Wednesday, they will register their 12th clean sheet of the calendar year, one more than they achieved in 1966 – the current best.
During Euro 2020, the Everton goalkeeper surpassed Gordon Banks’ previous record of 720 minutes without conceding for his country.
Pickford also saved two penalties in the shoot-out defeat to Italy in the final, having let in just two goals in the whole tournament.
His position as England’s number one came under threat in March, when Nick Pope started all three World Cup qualifiers with Pickford injured.
But with Pope then requiring knee surgery, Pickford got the gloves for the whole of the Euros and believes he has been improving as a goalkeeper of late.
“I’m getting older, I’m maturing,” the 27-year-old said.
“I’m a lot more experienced as well. Everything is a learning curve. It’s all about improving day to day and being consistent.
“I think the biggest thing is decision-making – making the right pass at the right time, if it’s a counter-attack or whether I need to take the sting out of the game and give the lads a breather.
“So, for me, I think I’ve always felt like I’ve been good at distributing the ball, it’s just doing it at the right time and looking after the lads because realistically if I’ve got the ball in the hands, I’m in charge of the ball and I need to manage the game so I think that’s what I’ve improved on most.”
While Pickford’s club form has been called into question on occasion, he has always retained the trust of Gareth Southgate.
“I think that we’ve always had belief in his abilities as a goalkeeper,” the England boss said.
“I think that’s been questioned externally but never internally, and his performances have always warranted that faith.
“There’s the goalkeeping ability of keeping the ball out of the net and then there’s his ability with his feet, which is so important in the modern game.
“He’s got a fantastic range of passing and the way that we want to play, that is very, very important.
“I think there’s always room in everybody’s game to continue learning and I think in the last six months especially, his calmness in the matches has been a real standout and a progression.
“As I say, that’s never been an issue in our games but I think generally that’s an area that he’s paid attention to and he’s certainly seen the rewards of that in his performances.”
Pickford played down criticism of his performances.
“It’s noise and I feel like I’ve got my job to do, they’ve got their job to do,” he said.
“For me, it’s just performing on the pitch and not getting distracted by any of that. Just being in that mental frame of mind of focusing on what the job in hand is.”
Pickford saved from Andrea Belotti and Jorginho in the Euro 2020 final shoot-out as England ended on the losing side.
“I always fancy myself,” he said of keeping out spot-kicks.
“I do a lot of work on penalties when it comes to major tournaments. You’ve got to give yourself the best opportunity to make them saves.
“I know what a top penalty taker Jorginho is so I knew I had to save that penalty to keep us in the tournament.
“To win tournament football, the percentage is you’ve got to win a penalty shoot-out and we just came short of that against Italy.
“But as players, as a squad and as a nation it just drives us on to to do better and go to that World Cup and try to win it.”