HAVING joined Sunderland as an eight-year-old before earning England caps at every youth level, Jordan Pickford’s pedigree is not up for debate.
The 20-year-old will make his debut for Bradford in tomorrow’s League One opener at home to Coventry, having joined the club on a season-long loan.
After previous loan spells with Darlington, Alfreton, Burton and Carlisle, a move to Valley Parade is a significant step up.
It does not faze him in the slightest.
“I’m really looking forward to it and I’ve heard there will be a big crowd,” says Pickford, who helped Carlisle to a 1-0 home win against the Bantams in February.
“I’ve played in the two friendlies in front of a couple of thousand fans at Valley Parade and they seem really passionate.
“To play in the opening game of the season will be massive for me and another part of my progression.
“I went to Carlisle and Burton last season, the year before I was at Alfreton and the season before at Darlington.
“Every single experience has been a progression and a step higher.
“I’ve played for England from Under-16s right the way through to Under-19s.
“I played in a derby for Carlisle against Preston last season and we got battered 6-1, but it was a good test for me to bounce back from that.
“Playing for Bradford against Coventry is definitely going to be the biggest game of my Football League career, though.”
Pickford signed a new four-year contract with Sunderland earlier this summer, keeping him at the club until 2018.
That said much for how highly the Black Cats rate him and establishing himself as the number-one stopper at the Stadium of Light is his long-term goal.
Vito Mannone is in position as things stand and Costel Pantilimon joined the club from Manchester City in June.
Behind those two stands Pickford, an imposing figure at 6ft 2in.
“I think I’m still growing and would like to hit 6ft 3in,” adds the boyhood Sunderland fan.
“Manone did very well there last season and Pantilimon has just signed, so they’ve got two really good keepers there.
“At the start of pre-season I was third choice and had two or three weeks’ pre-season training with them and got involved in everything.
“Hopefully this kind of experience at Bradford can help me to get into the first-team in the future.
“My new four-year deal is good security but it’s down to me now to push on, keep going and get better in every game.
“My aim is to do my best week in and week out for Bradford and I’m sure Sunderland will keep an eye on my progress.
“Bradford have made some great signings, so hopefully we can have a good start to the season and really push on.”
Pickford hails from Washington, which is halfway between Sunderland and Newcastle.
“I’ve always supported Sunderland,” he adds. “Growing up, Thomas Sorensen was a player I admired because he saved a penalty against Newcastle.
“I also looked up to Peter Schmeichel when he was in his prime and I like Joe Hart a lot too.
“Hart also made his name in the lower leagues and has had to learn his trade – look at him now.”
Pickford will hope for a similar rise to stardom.