SUNDERLAND goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was expected to make his Football League debut today after agreeing a season-long loan with Burton Albion.
The England Under-19 stopper joined the League Two Brewers on a youth loan yesterday and was due to be pitched straight into the fray at Cheltenham Town this afternoon.
Academy product Pickford is highly-rated at the Stadium of Light and has been the club’s third-choice keeper for the last two seasons.
But the 19-year-old’s competitive experience is limited to the Conference after loan spells at Darlington and then last season at Alfreton Town.
Pickford, who kept five clean sheets in 12 games for Alfreton, will now get the opportunity to test himself at a higher level, with Burton manager Gary Rowett believing he has secured a transfer coup.
“I’ve looked at lots of keepers this summer and felt Jordan was my number one target,” said the former Derby County defender.
“I’m really pleased to get him on board.
“He’s 19 and looks like a young keeper – but he doesn’t play like one.
“Nicky Law (Alfreton manager) practically begged me to sign him. We’ve seen him ourselves and we were impressed.
“He did really well at Alfreton for a young keeper.
“He played in real physical games and he came for his crosses, no problem.
“He can kick it miles off both feet too and is one of the best kickers I’ve seen.”
Pickford has continued to train alongside Sunderland’s top two keepers under Paolo Di Canio, with the teenager returning from the first-team’s pre-season trip to Hong Kong earlier this week.
But while Sunderland are well aware of the potential that Pickford possesses, they are conscious that the Washington-born stopper needs first-team experience and he is unlikely to get that on Wearside, with Vito Mannone and Keiren Westwood at the top of the pecking order.
First-year professional Joel Dixon is now likely to provide the back-up to Mannone and Westwood, although Polish Under-18 international Max Stryjek has impressed for the development squad during pre-season.