THEY didn’t always see eye-to-eye during a season spent together in the Valley Parade dressing room.

But Matt Urwin knew there was something about fellow keeper Jordan Pickford – who will win his 66th England cap against Switzerland in Dusseldorf tomorrow as they chase a place in the last four of the Euros.

Urwin, meanwhile, hopes to shrug off a slight niggle to play against the Bantams in the opening pre-season friendly at Chorley – where he is closing in on 300 club appearances.

Their careers have taken a very different direction since both competed on the training ground at Apperley Bridge in 2014/2015.

Pickford played 34 times in a loan spell that was part of a careful progression as hometown club Sunderland moved him up the levels.

Urwin never got a chance to feature in City’s senior side but still has good memories of his time in Phil Parkinson’s squad – and his association with England’s number one.

“I wouldn’t say it was a love/hate relationship with Jordan because hate’s a bit strong,” said Urwin, who is three months older.

“We got on most of the time but we did used to bicker quite a lot.

“We were obviously two young lads about the same age and had the more experienced head of Ben (Williams), who got on with everybody. I absolutely adored Ben.

“It’s something I look back on very fondly, although it was frustrating because I didn’t manage to play.

“But that was the nature of having two good goalkeepers alongside you.

“I always backed my ability and felt I was good enough. But I did lack experience.

“Jordan was a similar age but he’d had some experience of League Two. I’d only really played in the National League North at that time and came straight from Blackburn after a dislocated shoulder.

“Sometimes things just don’t quite align. But it was a really good group to be involved with – and Lee Butler, our goalkeeping coach, was a tremendous character.

“He was great for me – and he’s got the hardest, iron handshake in the world!”

Jordan Pickford saves against Swindon during his City loanJordan Pickford saves against Swindon during his City loan (Image: Newsquest)

But it was the iron resolve of Pickford that most struck Urwin as the then 20-year-old relished the goldfish bowl of Valley Parade.

“It wasn’t Jordan’s ability that really stuck out for me but his mindset.

“I know the Valley Parade pitch had problems last season and it was very bad at that time.

“I remember a game when he took the ball across on to his left foot, which we know now is very good.

“He was trying to find the full back on the far side and it was difficult to do. But it didn’t work and he kicked it in the stand.

“Then he got the ball back and he did exactly the same thing – and it came off perfectly.

“I remember thinking at the time, ‘this kid could go far’.

“Would I have tried that after getting it wrong first time? No, definitely not.

“When you’re playing in front of 18,000 fans, you come under a lot of pressure.

“Imagine if he’d kicked it out of play again and the crowd getting on his back. But he had that strong mentality and that’s probably why he’s gone on to do so well.”

City was Pickford’s third EFL stop-off on a loan route that would take him up every division from National League to Premier League.

Urwin believes that time in West Yorkshire will have played a big part in shaping the career of the best England keeper he has seen.

“Jordan did it perfectly, Darlington, Burton, Carlisle, Bradford, Preston, then Sunderland and Everton.



“I work for Blackpool now coaching the under-23s and the under-18s goalkeepers. If I could plan a loan route for one of the keepers, that would be the perfect way to do it.

“I enjoyed my time with Bradford City and he’ll probably say the same.

“It was a massive jump in his career at that stage to play in front of that many people week in, week out at the age he was.

“It’s a big step, even from a club like Carlisle. You’ve come from the academy playing on a Saturday morning in front of no supporters to 18,000 at Valley Parade.

“Due to his career upbringing, he’s been preparing every step of the way. I think he’s reaping the rewards for it now – and so are we as a country with his performances.

“I’d say that he’s been England’s best goalkeeper in my lifetime.

“Obviously we’ve had great keepers like Joe Hart and David Seaman but when you look at how he’s played in the England shirt, he’s probably been the best.

“You always feel confident with him. We’ve had good goalkeepers in the past who’ve possibly let the stage get to them.

“But Jordan’s been the complete opposite. He’s risen to the occasion.

“Long may it continue because he’s at a good age as well.”

Urwin went on to Fylde and Fleetwood after leaving City before joining Chorley seven years ago.

He famously helped the National League North side to the FA Cup scalps of Wigan, Peterborough and Derby on their way to the fourth round in the behind-closed-doors 2020/2021 campaign.

Last season, Chorley finished fourth but were beaten by Brackley in the promotion play-off semi-finals.

Urwin is looking forward to the City friendly, which has been brought forward an hour to allow travelling fans to get home to watch England.

“It’s great when you are playing teams like Bradford City,” he added. “We’ve got Bolton and Wigan as well and a couple of under-23 sides.

“It’s really good for the lads to play against teams from higher divisions. Pre-season is a long slog but these games excite you.

“We’ll give as good as we get and compete.

Matt Urwin never played a senior game for the BantamsMatt Urwin never played a senior game for the Bantams (Image: Newsquest)

“I’ve played against Andy Cook when he was at Barrow, so I know what he’s all about.

“He’s physical and we’ve got a couple of centre halves who definitely enjoy that fight so they’ll be up for it.

“I’d like to think there will be a big crowd.

“From my time at Bradford, the support was incredible. I’ve never seen an obsession like it in my career.

“I only spent a season at Bradford City but I’ll always have something there for the club.

“They were such a good group of players and doing as well as we did in the FA Cup, beating Chelsea and getting to the quarter-finals, definitely holds a special a place in my heart.

“Unfortunately, I never got the chance to play for Bradford but to be playing against them will be good.”