Gareth Southgate called Jordan Pickford amid the fall-out of his challenge on Virgil van Dijk in order to offer his support to the England goalkeeper.
Pickford avoided a red card in last month’s Merseyside derby for a tackle the Liverpool defender, who could miss the remainder of the season with a serious knee ligament injury.
The Everton goalkeeper was, however, widely criticised for injuring Van Dijk through dangerous play and has been subjected to death threats and abuse on social media, reportedly leading him to hire a personal bodyguard.
Southgate chose to speak to Pickford in the days after the Goodison Park derby on 17 October. “It was after the Liverpool game and really I was just checking in,” the England manager said on Thursday.
“I recognise that there had been a very high profile situation, and there was a lot of collateral fallout in a very public way, so I just felt that would be an appropriate call to see how he was and if I could help him in any way really.”
Pickford has struggled for form at the start of the season and was dropped by Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti last weekend, with back-up loanee Robin Olsen preferred between the posts.
Ancelotti assured Pickford that he would return to play against Manchester United this weekend and Southgate believes that a brief spell out of the side at club level will not hurt his first-choice goalkeeper’s confidence.
“I don’t think [confidence has] been difficult to give him because his performances have been so good and his ability with his feet has also been an important part of how we’ve tried to play for quite a period of time as well,” he said.
“I think he’s also benefiting from as experienced and successful a manager as you could have at club level and he’ll deal with everything in a very calm manner and a very measured way.
“I know over the years [Ancelotti’s] taken the opportunity to rest his goalkeepers. He did that last week, but within 15 minutes of that decision you knew Jordan was going to be playing this weekend so those small things I think helped to settle situations like that down.
“Of course, this has been a difficult period for him in terms of the spotlight on that particular challenge, and because of the profile of the player involved in it as well, and you know everybody’s disappointed to see a player like that missing football.
“But we all know whenever we stepped over the line as a player that injury can happen and it is an unfortunate situation. There’s nothing Jordan can do about that now, he’s just got to get on with playing.”
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