London (AFP) – England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford says his Euro 2020 heroics have been fuelled by the criticism he endured during a difficult season with Everton.
Pickford heard calls for Gareth Southgate to drop him from the England team after he made a series of costly errors in the domestic campaign.
The 27-year-old was axed by then Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti for a Premier League game at Newcastle in November.
But Southgate has kept faith with Pickford and has been rewarded with some superb displays during England’s run to a European Championship quarter-final against Ukraine in Rome on Saturday.
Pickford is yet to concede a goal in four games and made two crucial saves in Tuesday’s historic 2-0 win over Germany in the last 16.
“You’re always up for criticism when you’re a professional footballer and England player,” Pickford said on Thursday.
“It’s about maturing each day and becoming the best you can be.
“Having a son definitely helps. It changes your life. I feel I’ve changed. I’m 27 so I’ve played a lot more games.”
Pickford’s impressive form has dovetailed with an England defence that has been combative and well-drilled in the tournament so far.
Quick to praise the contributions of those in front of him, Pickford said: “For me it is very good and it is really nice. But it is not just me, it is a full XI and everyone is working really hard to keep those clean sheets. In tournament football they are key.
“For me it was a good game, I was in the moment and I have got to be in the moment for England. I felt I was there, making saves when I have got to.
“You have just got to be ready, concentration levels have got to be high and I’ve just got to be 100 percent all through the game.”
England were roared on by an ecstatic Wembley crowd of more than 40,000 as they beat Germany in the knockout stage of a major tournament for the first time in 55 years.
Pickford revealed the raucous atmosphere has given the squad more impetus to win the quarter-final in Rome and return home to Wembley for the semi-final against Denmark or the Czech Republic.
With the final also at Wembley, Pickford said: “The fans were tremendous the other night and throughout the group stages as well so I think that gives us added motivation for the game, to come back to a semi-final with 60,000 fans.”