David Moyes has heaped praise on Jordan Pickford for his “remarkable” debut season in the Premier League – and compared his outstanding kicking to that of a top midfielder.
The 23-year-old has been one of the few positives to emerge from this campaign, which sees Sunderland’s top flight status hanging by an increasingly small thread.
Pickford, who has been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, continues to win admirers for a string of impressive displays, with his pin-point distribution catching the eye too.
Moyes describes it as a “big weapon” for Sunderland in their ongoing battle for survival, with Pickford averaging 33 passes a match.
And the Sunderland boss believes the Washington-born stopper has got the balance just right in terms of when to play out from the back and when to get Sunderland quickly motoring up the pitch.
“He’s obviously a very big kicker, I thought some of his passes against Watford recently, it was like watching a top midfield player,” beamed Moyes.
“He’s just got to be careful, that it isn’t something he needs to do to get noticed or to be seen, because then it adds risks to his game. At the moment he’s not doing that, he’s limiting it.
“He’s a very good passer, he can go short, he can play long, it is such a big part of goalkeeping these days.
“Against Leicester he had something like 70 per cent pass accuracy, against Manchester United I think it was down to about 40, so we’re keeping an eye on it.
“Of course there are other things, Darmian out jumped Victor [Anichebe] quite a lot so you can’t read too much into it, but we’re always on to make sure his distribution is good, as a team we need it, it’s a big weapon for us.”
Pickford has made 23 appearances in the Premier League this season, keeping three clean sheets.
In total, the in-demand stopper – who is being monitored by several top flight teams – has made 751 passes this season in the league, with 261 accurate long balls included in that figure.
After several loan spells in the Football League, the England Under-21 international made his debut for Sunderland last season against Arsenal in the FA Cup before establishing himself as the club’s number one this campaign with Pickford the first name on the team sheet.
“For a young lad to do so well, to not make mistakes, it is really, really big,” added Moyes.
“He’s been through the season nearly immaculate, I touch wood when I say, but you’d have to say he’s just been so good.
“The scrutiny will come, and goalkeepers will have ups and downs, I use David de Gea as an example, I thought that Sir Alex Ferguson played him when he wasn’t playing so well, took him out the odd time, put him back in, showed great faith in him, and all of the managers since have had a really great goalkeeper in him.
“Jordan’s come in and nearly not made any mistakes, and gone through a season nearly as well as anybody, it has been a remarkable first season in the Premier League.
“I’ve seen him as probably the biggest positive at the club this year.”