IT would have been easier to hide away after making a suspect start in City colours.

Conceding two soft goals from set-pieces on debut is hardly the ideal way for a young goalkeeper to win over his new club.

Some could have crumbled from that moment. But not Jordan Pickford.

The fact that his inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the World Cup passed without a tremor shows how highly he is already regarded.

And yet it is not even four years since that “sink or swim” afternoon against Coventry at Valley Parade.

James Hanson nodding a dramatic late winner lessened the post-match finger-pointing at the on-loan rookie in the home net. But the mental demons could still have set up camp in the 20-year-old’s head.

Pickford’s reaction, though, proved that he was made of steely stuff – a trait that has become apparent in his rapid progress up the ladder since.

“He didn’t have the greatest start against Coventry,” recalled City’s former goalkeeping coach Lee Butler.

“Then there were a few games after that when he didn’t do so well.

“It’s not easy as a young goalie. You make a mistake and everyone is on you. But it never bothered him one iota.

“I remember him telling me that he had a function to go to that night and saying: ‘I’d better take my tin hat!’

“Some would have pulled out and kept their head down but he was just laughing about it.

“It was unbelievable strength of character in such a young player and that was the thing that really stuck out for me.

“A few could have wobbled. He was only just 20 but for someone so young to show that level of maturity and character was fantastic.

“Any criticism after he made mistakes didn’t affect him. He just wasn’t bothered by it.

“It wasn’t just his talent, which we knew all about, but that mental strength. He never doubted himself and he turned out to be brilliant after that first month.”

Pickford went on to play 34 times for City during the 2014-2015 season, continuing to build up the experience that he was picking up as Sunderland loaned him out from the bottom upwards.

Former Bantams boss Nicky Law had spotted that blossoming talent – not to mention a booming kick – during a stint with his Alfreton side in the Conference.

Other spells with Darlington, Burton and Carlisle had smoothed some of the rough edges before he arrived at Valley Parade for City’s second year back in League One.

Butler and Phil Parkinson had already clocked Pickford’s ability when City were beaten at Brunton Park the previous February.

Butler said: “It was a windy Tuesday night up there and he was coming for stuff and making saves. I remember watching him thinking ‘this kid looks the part’.

“He caught Phil’s eyes as well so we thought we’d go for him in the summer. It got sorted while we were on tour in Ireland and we got him in a couple of weeks before the start of the season.

“To be honest, he was very raw when he first came in and it was difficult for him at first.

“But you could see he’d got talent – and Phil was convinced. He’d only been here two weeks and Phil was saying that Jordan will play for England one day.

“I didn’t think it would happen as soon as it has but I’m not surprised.”

Pickford’s £25 million move to Everton last summer made him the most expensive British goalkeeper of all time. He was an ever-present in the Premier League, earning the first of two England caps against Germany in November.

Butler, now part of Parkinson’s coaching team at Bolton, said: “I still keep in touch with Jordan and you can see he’s done it the right way.

“He played Conference, League Two, with us in League One and then Preston in the Championship.

“He got in the Sunderland team in the Premier League and has just had a great season with Everton. He’s just got better and better.

“He’s not just ticking along in academy football. I can still play at that under-23 level.”

Similarly, Butler expects that “no fear” attitude will come to the fore for Pickford in Russia next month.

“I thought they might have taken Joe Hart as a back-up but the way Jordan’s played for England, it looks like he’s got 50 games under his belt.

“He’d be my pick anyway. He will relish the World Cup.”