Published 12 August 2021 4 min read
'We still talk today...'
England's Jordan Pickford takes us through his grassroots football story, from street and school football through to Sunderland...
My first memories of football come from when I used to play out in the street near home with my brother, he was a bit older than me but I’d join in with him and his mates.
There’s nothing specific around that, but I do remember going to see my brother play for a team he’d joined and there was an U7s team on the same pitch and they didn't have a keeper…
I was probably a year or so younger than them, but used to go in goal when I was knocking on the street so I just joined in and ever since then I've been in goal.
That team was Washington Envelopes, my first club. I didn't really think much about playing with the older lads, but I just liked being brave and getting in front of the football.
I started playing in the league for them and I remember playing every Saturday and then when the summer came around we'd play in midweeks too.
The training pitch was just at a local secondary school because there wasn't an actual associated junior club, but that didn’t matter at the time, I just enjoyed playing really.
I didn't know anything about it, but I’d probably been playing for them for about 18 months when someone from Sunderland spotted me and I just remember a scout came to the house one day.
After speaking to my mam, I was invited into the development squad there and then it went to a six-week trial and I joined the Academy of Light and it's all I've known since I was eight really.
However, I must confess, I did used to play for the school and try to keep it quiet! Especially because I used to play out in midfield and I’d love getting stuck into the tackles. There were some good school teams around the area at the time so I used to love that, lining up against the enemy!
One of my best mates was a lad called Jordan Lavender, who I went all the way through Sunderland with, and I can still remember when we were playing against his school once.
And I can still picture the moment to this day, hitting the best shot I've ever hit in my life and seeing it going top-bins. We still talk about that today.
But I think playing outfield in those games, along with the street football and the work we’d do with the ball at Sunderland helped me to develop my game as a goalkeeper and get used to the ball.
It was always about enjoying football, but there was a lot of commitment from my parents, especially being at Sunderland since I was eight years old.
I still enjoyed it, but you also had to earn your place for the next year and there were times as I got older when I’d want to get out of going to training but they’d make sure I went and looking back, that was so important.
You couldn't mess around, even though you are a kid you had to take on board what the coaches want from you, so it did get serious quite early.
From an early age, there were lots of coaches that I've worked with who have had such a big influence on me.
Mark Prudhoe was my goalkeeping coaches and is one who I still speak to today.
And at the Sunderland academy, people like Kevin Ball, Elliott Dickman and Ged McNamee, they're all still part of the club now and whenever I'm back home I always try to pop in and see them.