Jordan Pickford has been a talisman for England during Euro 2020.
But what’s the secret to the England No1’s success?
His childhood sweetheart, devoted mum and PE teacher have all played key roles in helping him reach the international stage.
As England get ready to face Ukraine in the quarter-finals on Saturday, his former teachers, ex-players and family friends have praised Pickford’s relentless pursuit of excellence which has taken him to the very top.
The Mirror reports his mum Susan took him to training and matches. She worked as a receptionist at her son’s school, the Robert of Newminster RC secondary, in Washington.
As Jordan, known as ‘Picky’, rose through the ranks to represent England as a schoolboy, Susan was always there for him. If his dad Lee, a builder, was working, she would arrive in a taxi.
Once he signed for Sunderland, Jordan again worked hard on loan to lower league clubs, and would have his mum’s pre-match meal of pasta and chicken in the back of the car.
“I’m not sure it was too professional,” he recalled later. “But as long as I was getting Man of the Match, it was all right. “My parents made sacrifices for me. That’s why I reward them now, playing in front of big crowds and giving everything.”
It was at the school that he first set eyes on the love of his life, his future wife Megan Davison. She was just 14, and he was 16, when they met.
He took her to the cinema on their first date – and they have been together ever since. She studied at Sunderland University while Jordan learned his trade as a professional footballer.
The couple moved to Cheshire after his £30m transfer from Sunderland to Everton in 2017 made him Britain’s most expensive ever goalie.
They wed in March 2020 at a register office with the £60,000-a-week goalie in a pair of ripped jeans and a baseball cap and Megan in an ivory blouse.
They love travelling, with the Bahamas, and Barbados among their favourite destinations. She calls him ‘bae’ in social media posts – with one showing dressed as Ali G at a fancy dress party.
Now a multi-millionaire, the rising star has never forgotten his roots, visiting his old school to see his former teachers, giving them England shirts as mementoes of his rise to the very top.
Dean Juric, head teacher at St Robert’s in Washington, said: “Jordan was an excellent athlete and tennis player as well as a footballer.
“When he played for our school team he played outfield, our other keeper was pretty good at the time. Jordan has been a great inspiration to pupils.
“He’s a very focused and determined young man. He’s unassuming but very confident and self assured in a good, positive way.
“It will stand him in good stead for the rest of this tournament and we’re very proud to have a former pupil perform with such excellence.”
Jim Welch, Jordan’s former PE teacher at the school, still sees Susan and Jordan’s dad Lee at their local, catching up on the latest exploits of their son.
Jim, 66, described as ‘fearless’ from a very early age. In one game, when Jordan – known as ‘Speedy’ – was playing out in midfield, a referee warned that he would have to send him off such was the level of his commitment.
Jim told the Mirror: “His brother Richard would have Jordan diving around on concrete when they were playing. Jordan was fearless, he would do that even on the hard concrete.
“As soon as he got into the England teams, from under 15, I had a feeling he would go all the way to the top.
“He was fiery, but there is nothing wrong with that. I would play him in midfield and he scored a few goals with his left foot; they played him at the back at Sunderland for a while – that’s why his passing is so good now.
“He was always determined that he was going to be a professional footballer, he was in all the England teams, right the way through the junior ranks.
“He was brilliant against Germany, and I am over the moon for him and his family.” He added: “He used to come back into school when he was at Everton, and it was great to see him. His gran Sylvia used to work there too, she would bring him from five years old.
“He is still a lovely, down to earth lad. I think starting a family has helped him settle down. I feel such pride when I see him playing for England.”
Jordan revealed that he had been using a psychologist to improve his game this season. “We talk about everything. We cover a lot of bases: mentality and how to be better in all aspects,” he said. “He can help me develop my thinking… and learn how to cope with various things and get through sticky patches.
“I want to be the best goalkeeper for me. When I am on top form it gives the lads the strongest opportunity to win games, which puts smiles on fans’ faces.”
England legends Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and Rio Ferdinand all praised his performance against Germany.
And it is not the first time he has been a hero for his country.
He pulled off a brilliant save as England overcame their penalty shoot out hoodoo to beat Columbia in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Back home, he told how he loves to spend his time with Megan and their two-year- old son Arlo, who travel to England games to see him in action.
He said of the victory over Germany: “It was great to see my family and friends there being part of the fans, it was incredible. We want more of that. We’ve got to enjoy the moment.”
He is the only keeper at the Euros not to concede a goal. Millions of Three Lions fans will be praying that continues in our quarter final against Ukraine on Saturday night.