Pickford can handle being England No.1 at World Cup - Kirkland

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Once a Three Lions netminder himself, the 37-year-old believes his former team-mate has a fearless self-belief that will see him succeed

Jordan Pickford has been backed to handle the pressure of being England's first-choice goalkeeper at the World Cup by Chris Kirkland.

Everton keeper Pickford has been allotted the No.1 shirt for the tournament in Russia and is expected to start the opening group game against Tunisia ahead of Jack Butland and Nick Pope.

Former England international Kirkland, who worked with Pickford at Preston North End, believes the 24-year-old is a 'special talent' and can impress for Gareth Southgate's side.

“I’m a big fan of Jordan, having played and trained with him at Preston," Kirkland told Goal. "He’s probably the best I’ve ever worked with. I expect and hope that he starts in the World Cup.

“He’s fearless, and he’s got that incredible self-belief which you need as a goalkeeper. I always say that I wish I had a bit more of it when I was playing.

“He has the mentality to handle playing for England at a World Cup, for sure. It's not easy to play at a major tournament, where everybody is on your back, but he's the right kind of character.”

Pickford enjoyed his breakout season during the 2015/16 campaign while on loan at Championship side Preston, making 27 appearances.

Upon returning to Sunderland he ousted Vito Mannone to become first choice and ended that season as one of the only shining lights for the Black Cats as they were relegated from the Premier League.

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He subsequently earned a move to Everton and his performances have elevated him to England's likely first choice, with Kirkland impressed by Pickford's distribution.

The 37-year-old added: ”Obviously, they want to build from the back and ideally dominate games, but Jordan gives them the option to launch quick attacks with long kicks up to the forwards or into space. He's capable of those 60-70-yard passes which open the game up.

"He has to start, and I think he will. I'll be rooting for him in Russia and think he will really show the world what he's capable of."

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