Jordan Pickford says England have been practising penalties and he’d be willing to take one

Jordan Pickford is ready to be England’s penalty hero in Russia and is just as prepared to try his luck from 12 yards as he is to make a match-winning save.

England goalkeepers do not just carry the hopes of the nation with them when they land at a tournament, they also find themselves at the centre of the country’s preoccupation with spot-kicks.

The English fascination with – and fear of – penalties dates back 28 years and includes six agonising defeats from seven shootouts.

Their solitary victory came at Euro 96, when David Seaman saved from Miguel Angel Nadal, but Everton’s No 1 is admirably laid back about the prospect of improving on that sorry record.

And while his main job would be keeping the ball out of the net, he will happily volunteer to strike one at this summer’s World Cup.

“If I need to step up, I’ll take one. I’ve got no issue with that,” said the 24-year-old at St George’s Park.

“Taking the [winning] penalty or saving one, I’ll be happy either way. I’ve never taken one in a shootout but I’m always practising in training.”

Back in 2004, England were knocked out when Portugal keeper Ricardo blocked Darius Vassell’s effort and then converted his own. And Pickford’s suggestion that he would like to follow suit is more than just idle talk.

During the U17 World Cup in 2011, Pickford was primed to take his shot against Argentina when manager John Peacock switched him with team-mate Max Clayton.

“I was down as third to take one but the manager changed it so I dropped to seventh,” he recalled, before swiftly noting Clayton “smashed it over the bar”.

Pickford revealed Gareth Southgate’s penalty preparations are already well under way, which is perhaps no surprise given he was personally guilty of a memorable miss against Germany in 1996.

England have already had mock shootouts, with players walking from the halfway line to recreate the matchday process. Ultimately, though, there is no foolproof formula and in its absence, Pickford’s confidence might be a valuable weapon.

“Behind the scenes we’re doing a lot of work to get preparation for how we’d want to go about it,” he said.

“There are a lot of good penalty takers here and we’ve been practising the last couple of days… it’s been hard to save them.

“It’s pot luck sometimes isn’t it? It’s about how the taker’s looking at it, body language, where his shoulders or arms are… and sometimes you’ve just got to pick a side, wait and attack it.

“If you get there you get there and if you don’t, get the next one. If you save a couple you can be a hero but there’s no pressure on you.

“I’ve saved a few penalties, I’m good at them.”

Pickford is thought to be in a straight battle with Jack Butland to start in Russia, backed up by the uncapped Nick Pope, and will be hoping to get the nod against Nigeria on Saturday in England’s penultimate warm-up.

“None of us know yet,” he admitted.

“We work hard on the training pitch. Me, Popey and Butland. We are all working hard and pushing each other, so it is all competition.”

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