Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been handed his maiden England call-up for the World Cup 2018 qualifier against Slovenia tomorrow (11 October) as a replacement for Tom Heaton. The Burnley stopper has withdrawn with a "minor" injury, The Football Association has confirmed, with the 22-year-old Pickford called-up as the understudy to Joe Hart and Fraser Forster.
Pickford had been due to link-up with the Under-21 side for the European Championship qualifier against Bosnia and Herzegovina – having withdrawn from the initial squad due to a thigh injury which forced him to miss the win over Kazakhstan. But after he received treatment back at the Stadium of Light the former Darlington and Alfreton Town loanee has returned to full fitness to provide valuable back-up for the fixture in Ljubljana.
The Washington-born 'keeper has won nine caps at Under-21 level under the stewardship of Gareth Southgate, who has been given the reins of the senior team for four matches following the premature resignation of Sam Allardyce following a newspaper sting. The qualifier against Slovenia is Southgate's second in charge, coming after the routine win over Malta.
After starting the campaign behind Vito Mannone, Pickford has been given the number one jersey at Sunderland and has produced a series of impressive displays amid a harrowing start to the campaign for David Moyes' side. The Black Cats are currently bottom of the Premier League table, with Pickford yet to keep a clean sheet in his five top flight appearances this term.
Heaton meanwhile becomes the latest injury casualty of Southgate's tenure, after Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka and Ryan Bertrand were all forced to withdraw through fitness concerns. Southampton full-back Bertrand went off with a hamstring injury in the 2-0 win over Malta and has been replaced by Kieran Gibbs.
The Arsenal full-back has now joined up with the squad, who will train at Hotspur Way, the training base of Tottenham Hotspur, on Monday [10 October] before travelling to Slovenia later in the day. Southgate will then face the media on the eve of the game where his team selection – and the role of captain Wayne Rooney – will likely be top of the agenda.