Gareth Southgate is a brilliant manager – Jordan Pickford defends England boss

Gareth Southgate is a brilliant manager – Jordan Pickford defends England boss

Jordan Pickford has leapt to the defence of “brilliant” England manager Gareth Southgate and insisted the squad will head to Qatar with positivity despite a six-match winless run.

The winter World Cup will get under way in exactly three weeks with the Three Lions beginning their campaign on November 21 against Iran before further Group B fixtures with USA and Wales.

Given England’s exploits at the European Championships in 2021 and the previous World Cup, they were predicted to be among the contenders next month but a poor run of form in the Nations League has cast doubt over their potential to lift silverware in the Middle East.

Southgate’s side lost twice to Hungary back in June, including an embarrassing 4-0 loss at Molineux, and played out draws with Germany in the summer and September international windows in addition to a stalemate with Italy at Wembley and a 1-0 loss in Milan.

Pickford was not involved in the last four matches due to a mixture of injury and rotation but pointed to England’s runner-up showing at the Euros and their semi-final run at the 2018 World Cup as reasons to be positive.

“Gareth is a brilliant manager,” Pickford told the PA news agency.

“He is brilliant and we will go to the World Cup positive. We will give it our best shot and hopefully bring the cup home.

“I think for us it is about making the nation proud and doing our best in the tournament.

“We know what we are capable of doing and we have great squad togetherness.

“Togetherness gets you so far, so I think if we haven’t won in six, it is not the end of the world and we will still be going to Qatar as positive as anything after the last two tournaments.”

Speaking at the launch of Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Pickford expressed his eagerness to pull on an England shirt again.

After he started the games with Hungary and Germany in June, the Everton goalkeeper was rested for the second set of matches during the same month before a thigh injury ruled him out of September’s fixtures.

He added: “I can’t wait. I was injured for the last camp, which was unfortunate, but I have got myself fit and I am raring to go.

“I am playing for Everton again now so in a good run of form leading up to the World Cup and looking forward to the World Cup itself.

“We played the Nations League and, you know, we are playing Italy, the Euro champions, Hungary are a very good side so that is what the Nations League is good for, because you are playing in competitive matches.

“As a footballer you are never going to win every game. You want to win every game but you can’t win them all and the run we’ve had with England over the last four to five years has been sensational.

“Yeah, the results haven’t gone our way (of late) but we will rectify that come the World Cup.”

Jordan Pickford and Fran Kirby went head-to-head in a secret Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II tournament in Islington on Thursday (Mikael Buck/Activision/Handout)
Jordan Pickford and Fran Kirby went head-to-head in a secret Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II tournament in Islington on Thursday (Mikael Buck/Activision/Handout)

Pickford took part in a secret Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II tournament alongside Lioness Fran Kirby on Thursday and admitted the video game is popular with both his fellow England and Everton team-mates.

A number of Everton players could join the 45-cap international on the plane to Qatar.

Summer signings Conor Coady and James Tarkowski have impressed and attacking duo Anthony Gordon and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will hope to catch the eye of Southgate in the next fortnight.

“Yeah, we have some great English talent at Everton, which is great,” Pickford said.

“We don’t really talk about it because our sole focus is on Everton at the time being and putting in good performances for Everton can only give each other a chance for the World Cup or future times with England.”

Everton travel to Fulham on Saturday eager to build on an encouraging start to the new campaign.

Frank Lampard’s Toffees recently embarked on a six-match unbeaten run before narrow defeats to Manchester United, Tottenham and Newcastle were followed by a 3-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace.

Pickford insisted: “The manager (Lampard) is really good. His staff around him are brilliant as well.

“We have great chemistry around the place. We have an enjoyment about our work but we work hard and it is a great environment.

“We are a big club with a lot of history behind us but us as players want to create our own history.”