This midweek has emphasised why Dean Henderson should be England number one goalkeeper for Euro 2020.
The Manchester United stopper, on loan for a second season at Sheffield United, put in a man-of-the-match display as the Blades narrowly lost 1-0 to Manchester City.
Henderson saved a Gabriel Jesus penalty, as well as making a string of fine stops to keep City at bay until the 73rd minute. There was nothing the 22-year-old could do about the winner, with a touch of class from Kevin de Bruyne picking out Sergio Aguero for a tap in.
Meanwhile, over at Goodison Park the current first choice England ‘keeper was having a nightmare. In the 94th minute Everton lead Newcastle United 2-0. By full-time it was 2-2.
Florian Lejeune pulled one back from a corner, before the defender levelled the score from a scramble just a minute later. At first it looked as if Pickford had saved Lejeune’s effort. But on closer inspection the 25-year-old was standing in his goal and the ball had clearly crossed the line.
“It is frantic. It is incredible and pinball. But the goalkeeper loses his head and his bearings,” Martin Keown said about Pickford on Match Of The Day.
“Looking ahead to the future and the summer, he has got to calm down in that goal.”
Why Henderson should be England number one
Mistakes happen in football. Let’s not forget that Henderson made a very costly one at Bramall Lane earlier this season, allowing Gini Wijnaldum’s shot from distance to squirm underneath him for Liverpool’s winner.
Yet the Man United loanee has also kept eight Premier League clean sheets in 2019/20 – a record only matched this term by Watford’s Ben Foster and Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City.
The Blades’ defensive record of 23 goals conceded is only bettered by leaders Liverpool. The Toffees have let in 35 with Pickford between the posts.
“I think Henderson is ready. Certainly based on this season, Jordan Pickford isn’t having the best year of his career, and he’d be the first to admit that,” former Hornets goalkeeper, Richard Lee, told Love Sport Radio.
“Then you look at Dean Henderson, and he’s been in brilliant form. Although he’s not technically perfect – there are still a few flaws in his game and he does make errors – I think he’s mentally the strongest keeper available to Gareth Southgate.
“The age that he’s at, he’ll end up playing a lot of games for England and I think he’ll be putting the pressure on this summer.
“He’s a big game goalkeeper – you know you can rely on him to stand up and have a calm head when the chips are down. Henderson wouldn’t crack under pressure. You wouldn’t necessarily have the same confidence about Pickford.”
Other England number one challengers for Henderson
Henderson has been called up to the past two England squads, on both occasions to replace the injured Tom Heaton. However, he didn’t make it off the bench with Pickford preferred for three games and Nick Pope playing in the other.
The Three Lions only have four more friendlies – split between March and June – before Euro 2020 starts. If Pickford isn’t to play then Pope is clearly Henderson’s biggest rival for the number one shirt.
Now the established first choice at Burnley, the 27-year-old has two caps for his country. So Pope isn’t much more experienced on the international stage – in fact, Henderson has played throughout youth level and has 11 Under-21 caps. Pope does not.
With Heaton ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a knee injury, arguably the only other genuine contender for the position is Bournemouth’s Aaron Ramsdale.
A former Blade himself, Ramsdale also put in a man-of-the-match display this week in the 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion.
Yet once again, the Cherries have a far inferior defensive record to Chris Wilder’s men. Even Wilder himself is unsure why Henderson isn’t already Southgate’s number one.