Gareth Southgate needs a back-up plan if under-fire England No1 Jordan Pickford loses his place to Robin Olsen

AT least England will not have to worry about the Nations League finals in the autumn of 2021.

Instead, Gareth Southgate now has just two sets of triple-headers left until the start of Euro 2020.

And after another round of internationals, we have been left with a bit of promise but still a rather empty feeling.

Once again, England’s players – not helped by the Covidiots – have managed to raise more questions than answers.

And you have to start with keeper Jordan Pickford.

The 2-1 win over Belgium on Sunday was obviously positive even though the world’s top ranked team could have been out of sight by half-time.

This 1-0 defeat was shaped by the deserved sending off Harry Maguire which messed up any hopes of having a real look at the inexperienced defence which also included Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reece James and Conor Coady.

For now, Southgate simply has to look at another keeper in a competitive match.

Pickford was guilty of panicking, rushing off his line and playing a part in the muddle which led to Denmark’s penalty – even though it was a terrible decision by the officials to award the spot-kick.


 

Yet the Everton keeper, already under pressure at his club, confused matters rather than let Kyle Walker deal with Thomas Delaney, who still conned Spanish ref Jesus Gil Manzano.

But as he often does, Pickford made the wrong decision at the wrong time.

He did not have too much to do against Belgium – and had little chance for the penalty – but still flapped at the odd cross.

And here, despite showing some decent handling in the second half, did enough to prove why Nick Pope must be given another chance.

The Burnley keeper was handed only his third appearance in the 3-0 win over Wales but was not tested enough.

Dean Henderson cannot truly contest the number one spot until he starts playing regularly for Manchester United.

Pickford, although only 23, was only making his 28th appearance and he has not let England down on too many occasions.

He is a terrific, vocal presence in the team even though his opposite number for Denmark, Kasper Schmeichel clearly has the biggest gob in football.

With keepers, one mistake can be fatal – and enough to see a team eliminated from a tournament – and Pickford still makes these game-changing errors on too many occasions for his club.

But mistakenly, Southgate is simply not giving himself room for manoeuvre if Pickford loses his place in the Everton team to Robin Olsen, who has just arrived from Roma.

Ancelotti has signed him for a reason and Southgate needs to give himself another proper option. In the past, Roy Hodgson made the same mistake with Joe Hart.

Despite Everton’s fine start to the season, Pickford faces a real test on Saturday as it is the Merseyside derby.

England will face Belgium and Iceland in the Nations League next month but before, a friendly against unnamed opposition after New Zealand pulled out.

And in March, there will be three World Cup qualifiers

The team feels as though it is a work in progress despite the solid second half against Belgium. This international break was not help by the idiotic pair of Ben Chilwell and Jadon Sancho who went partying with Tammy Abraham.

When you consider the embarrassing behaviour by some of the England players – including Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood – you have to feel sorry for Southgate.

But he still has some big decisions to make – and time is running out.

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