Pickford stands out for all the wrong reasons: Richard Buxton
England's No. 1 a liability, with Pope and Henderson waiting to usurp him
If most goalkeepers are supposedly born crazy, Jordan Pickford has grown into it.
Everton's haphazard shot-stopper was not always the clown prince of his profession. Once upon a time, he boasted an impressive skillset that included a totally unique ball distribution which helped set him apart from his peers in the English Premier League.
Now, however, the Sunderland-born player stands out for all the wrong reasons.
Gareth Southgate's faith in Pickford is set to face its first legitimate test, ahead of England's Nations League encounter with Iceland tomorrow.
Covid-19 robbed Euro 2020 of its original start date, but it arguably saved the 26-year-old's international career after a season where he severely underwhelmed at club level.
His erraticism became an ugly blot on the Toffees' pursuit of progress. Games which previously appeared relative formalities were undermined by their goalkeeper's liability.
Southgate checked in on him twice earlier this year just before coronavirus forced the EPL into a lockdown.
On both occasions, against Crystal Palace and Manchester United respectively, Pickford conceded goals which were largely preventable on his part.
Whether it is masking frail confidence or just plain arrogance, his routinely light-hearted approach to floundering has done little to dispel suggestions of a questionable attitude.
Even Carlo Ancelotti is struggling to fathom what goes through his No. 1's mind.
The Italian issued a sharp warning of Pickford's need to buck up in mid-July, following a poor outing during a 3-0 loss at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Goodison Park's imbalanced squad offered him a degree of mitigation. But, as Ancelotti upgrades several problem positions, with midfielders James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure all incoming, excuses and hiding places are in an increasingly short supply.
Challengers to Pickford's sceptre for England are similarly forthcoming. Last season, he was not even the best homegrown player to play between the sticks on Merseyside.
An eye-catching display from Nick Pope in Burnley's 1-1 draw with Liverpool accelerated the debate about who merits a starring role for the Three Lions at next year's Finals.
His renaissance and Dean Henderson's impressive loan spell at Sheffield United have catapulted the pair into contention to usurp Pickford in their country's last line of defence.
On statistics alone, they outranked him for the most saves and fewest errors.
Utilising both over the incumbent affords Southgate the luxury to tailor his game plan to nullify England's opponents both in the Nations League and Euro 2020, with Pope adept at repelling onslaughts like the one the 28-year-old faced from the EPL champions.
Only Manchester City's Ederson recorded more clean sheets than him in last season's race for the Golden Glove.
Henderson, 23, has also shown huge strength of character alongside a well-rounded repertoire which gained prominence while at Bramall Lane.
His chastening experience as part of an England side which faltered at last summer's European Under-21 Championship proves that setbacks clearly do not faze him.
The same cannot be said for Pickford, who attributes the scrutiny he faces to an ingrained hatred of the national side's mainstays from supporters and media alike.
Apparently representing your country means that "everyone hates you".
Unless Pickford bucks up his ideas, indifference will be replacing contempt next summer.
- Richard Buxton's book Fine Margins is out. It looks at the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester City, as told through former players on both sides of the divide. For details, look for @FineMargins_ on Twitter.