England hero Jordan Henderson has thanked England hero Jordan Pickford for getting him out of jail after his spot kick against Colombia was saved on Tuesday. Jordan (the keeper) was all too happy to step up and save the blushes of his fellow Mackem: "I thanked him, I can't thank him enough," gushed Henderson. "I'm forever in his debt. He says the Mackems stick together! You obviously fear the worst when you miss the penalty but Pickers has done brilliantly with the save. We're a really close group, I think you can see that. It's difficult when you miss and nothing can be said that's going to make it alright but it's not about me, it doesn't really matter now, we won and that's the main thing. I can hardly remember it. Maybe it was a good height for the keeper if anything, it needed to be higher or lower but in penalties, you can miss or there can be a good save. Thankfully the lads dug me out. It wont put me off but it might put Gareth off! I’d take another one but obviously it’s down to the manager and I would understand if he chose someone else.”
The worlds most popular Mackem, Jordan Pickford, revealed what was said between the pair after making a save that had the country screaming his name: "He said to me 'well done you fellow Mackem'. I said 'Jesus, I've helped you out there lad. That's team-mates, isn't it? A bit of craic. We're together, when one goes down we've got to pick them back up. I just got down to business really. I trusted my instinct and went that way... strong hands, I'm happy."
Not only did Pickford save the crucial spot kick but also made a worldy to keep out a fantastic long range effort just before Colombia's undeserved equaliser, a save that many are calling "the best thing that a human being has done since the dawn of man". Pickford explained: "I used my top hand... I get criticised about the top hand but I don't think I'll be getting criticised about it now."
Meanwhile, Jack Ross has spoken on the balancing act he's been given at Sunderland. The gaffer is aware that immediate success is something people will be crying out for but he has to also plan for the future, buy smart and slowly introduce some youth into the side: “I think it’s probably a mixture of all of those elements," explained Ross. “At the moment, we have players here who have played first-team football and experienced it, but still have potential to fill, so they are ones that fit into the bracket of thinking they can grow with you. Then there are others that we have brought in, or are trying to bring in, that we believe will get better when they’re here too. If they improve and the club progresses, hopefully they’ll play a part in that. Then there are those that are a means to an end at that time. There’s a mixture of all of those elements to bring together. I commented in my previous job that I had built a squad to win a Championship up in Scotland, not one to be progressive in the Premiership. At the moment, it’s about building a squad to be successful in League One, not to be progressive in the Championship, because we’re not there at the moment and there are no guarantees we’ll get there unless we put something together that’s good and fits, and means we can go and deal with the challenges in this league. It’s a mixture of all those elements, and that’s the key aspect, to get that right because I’m sure people could agree that you could get a squad that might arguably do well in the Championship, but that might not win League One just because of the different challenges in that league. It’s key to try and create a good atmosphere because the club’s had a few disappointing years and some of the players here have been part of that. There’s a freshness about it with new players and new faces in terms of the coaching staff. I’ve been really encouraged with how the new players have settled in but equally how the other players have responded to what we’ve asked them to do. It’s a good start. That’s all it is at the moment but it’s certainly a good foundation to build from. It’s been good for me to have this time with the players, for them to see how I work. I want to be close to my players and enjoy that interaction. We tried to do as much at the Academy (of Light) as we could but because we’re eating together three times a day, we’re training together and we’ve got some time post-training and pre-training to speak to them it’s helped me get to know them and build relationships with them and the staff as well. It’s been thoroughly enjoyable in that respect and as I mentioned earlier it’s certainly a good foundation to build things from.”
Finally, SAFC new-boy Tom Flanagan reckons the lure of Sunderland was enough to see him leave the bright lights of London. The 26 year old was born and raised in the capital but the fans, stadium and facilities here were enough to make his decision to come an easy one: “I think when people say it’s too far, they don’t fancy it, I think that’s a Premier League thing," said Flanagan. "It’s nice living in London obviously but we could all list off ten players straight away whose careers have been living there. I think it’s such a good place to come and play football; the facilities are second to none. I was spoilt at Burton with St George’s Park, and I think this place has really got a soul, it’ll draw people in. For the next two years, I don’t know about the Premier League as I’ve never been there, but for now I can’t see the club having any problems recruiting players. Some people won’t want to come up north and that’s up to them, everyone is different. The distance never crossed my mind, at least not until I had to drive up! But it was never a factor. There’ll be more signings and you’ll hear the same things. People will say ‘they’ve got to say it’ but I think when you get the phone call from Sunderland your other options fade away, they become very uninteresting. I want to go to the next level and the level after that and I think I can do that here. The lure really is the size of it, the club and the fan-base, and the passion for the game in the area.”
The defender has first-hand knowledge of the passion that SAFC fans have. As a youngster he attended our games with some Sunderland supporting mates: “I remember going to Luton away, we were in the away end and I couldn’t believe how many people were there. Tuesday night, it was completely rammed. It was amazing given how far they had to come, how late they’d get back. Paul Furlong scored and I went on to play with him, and we spoke about that night. It’s strange how it works out and I think my friends might be even happier than me. I knew the passion then, and you can see it the season cards sold already.”