Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford's emotional ties to the Wearsiders could prove pivotal in staving off interest from Everton and Liverpool, according to manager David Moyes. Following the Black Cats' relegation to the Championship, Pickford is expected to be targeted during the upcoming summer transfer window having been a rare positive during an otherwise disappointing campaign.
The 23-year-old has kept five clean sheets in 30 appearances in all competitions for the club, but it was not enough as Sunderland were relegated from the Premier League with three games of the campaign remaining after defeat to Bournemouth in April. The Merseyside pair have both been heavily linked with a move for the England Under-21 international, with the Toffees plotting a £10m bid but Moyes' side are holding out for a fee approaching £20m.
Born in the town of Washington, less than seven miles of the Stadium of Light , Pickford grew up as a Sunderland fan and joined the club's academy in 2002 before living his dream in the first team. Moyes has warned that Pickford is not guaranteed a first team place at the likes of Everton and Liverpool and hopes his attachment to the club could prove pivotal in the window.
"At the moment, I really wouldn't know," Moyes said, according to Sky Sports, when asked about Pickford's future. "Obviously it's up to the club. If Jordan was to go elsewhere and not be the number one, that wouldn't be good for him because that would affect his progress. You can see what he does for us with the saves he makes. He's been outstanding from day one.
"I think [being a Sunderland fan] would be a telling factor if the alternative was to go and sit on the bench somewhere else. If I was Jordan I wouldn't do that, I'd want to be playing regularly but again Sunderland hold his contract and Jordan can't go anywhere unless we decide to let it happen."
Pickford's domestic form has seen him called into the England senior squad on two occasions this season, but he was a non-playing member in the World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia and Scotland as well as the international friendly against Spain. He was omitted from Gareth Southgate's plans for the matches in March with Germany and Lithuania just weeks after returning from nearly eight weeks out with a knee injury but is expected to be in contention for selection for the 2018 World Cup next summer.
Everton and Liverpool are badly in need of improving their options in goal after their campaign threatened to be undermined by goalkeeping errors. Neither Joel Robles or Maarten Stekelenburg have convinced for Ronald Koeman's side this term, with the Dutch coach rotating the pair throughout the campaign such has been the inconsistent nature of their displays.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has encountered similar problems with neither Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius fully convincing this season. The pair have also been rotated during the campaign, with Karius coming in for particular criticism from ex-Manchester United captain Gary Neville following a string of errors earlier in the campaign.