Jordan Pickford believes he is heading into the World Cup in the shape of his life and thriving with the competition he now has for his place in England.
The Everton goalkeeper was Gareth Southgate’s first-choice keeper between the sticks and helped his country reach the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and Euro 2020 final.
He now has serious competition for his place with Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale who hasn’t been wrong since joining the Gunners last year.
Nick Pope has also been excellent for Newcastle this season and came on in Pickford’s absence for the Three Lions in their last two games before the World Cup in September.
However, it would be a big surprise if Pickford weren’t number one in Qatar, given his reliability for Everton and for Southgate.
And Pickford admits he will enter the World Cup next month full of confidence having been a model of consistency for club and country over the past few years.
Speaking to talkSPORT’s Micky Gray in an exclusive interview, the Everton star said: “I feel my own form has been good.
“I think I’ve continued and been consistent for the past two years now and I’m still striving to get better and better.
“I feel like I started well, unfortunately I missed the games against England and a game against West Ham due to injury.
“But I worked hard to get back on the pitch as quickly as possible.
“My own form is good and I keep building and building and every game I’m ready for.”
When asked if he was in the best shape of his career, he replied: “The most consistent over the last two or three years, yes.”
‘It wasn’t planned’ – Gerrard speaks for first time since Aston Villa sacking
Ten Hag’s message to Ronaldo as he confirms he refused to play for United vs Spurs
Carragher opens up on Aston Villa sacking of former Liverpool team-mate Gerrard
Ex-Villa boss tells Pochettino it’s a perfect job – but he’s ready to avoid interest
Who could face England if Iran were expelled from the World Cup? United Arab Emirates and Italy linked
Marsch responds to Bielsa fan chants and says Leeds must ‘save their season’
England have never had so many solid options in goal, but Pickford are embracing the competition they now have at international level.
“You always want competition. I thrive on competition. It pushes me to get better,” he said.
“If they push you, I have to take the next step, so they have to push you even further.
“For me it’s just about being the best, having a good group of goalkeepers for England, because we always want the best for each other. I think we’re all okay with that, if it’s Popey, Rammers, Dean Henderson, Sam Johnstone, we’ve got plenty.
“It’s just about being the best I can be and the guys keep pushing me to get better. I really appreciate that competitive pressure behind me.
Pickford is already one of England’s most successful goalkeepers, and he believes his experience of dealing with high-pressure moments in previous tournaments will stand him in good stead in Qatar.
“Being a young boy from Washington and growing up making his England debut is your dream,” he continued.
“I have 45 caps now and I’ve come a long way and worked hard for it.
“To be in the final, to be in the semi-finals in two big tournaments, it puts a lot of pressure on you and I feel like I’m handling that well. But it’s about continuing, improving, never being just happy to reach a final or a semi-final, it’s about winning it and being in a winning team, and I think with this English team we have this great opportunity.”
And what about England’s chances of glory this winter?
“I’m really confident,” Pickford said. “We have a great squad, we felt like we were beaten in the final and semi-final.
“We had this disappointment and this defeat by not going all the way, by not getting the winner’s medal.
“I think you can only learn from this, you can learn from the negatives.
“We know what defeat looks like now, so it’s about us being a group and stepping up and going all the way.
“We know there’s so much competition in the World Cup, but when we’re in our A game I feel like we’re a top team.”
You can listen to Everton vs Crystal Palace from Jordan Pickford live on talkSPORT 2 this Saturday, kick off at 3pm