Stop the press – Sunderland academy graduate Jordan Pickford has heaped praise on Newcastle United number nine Callum Wilson.
While Newcastle and Sunderland are arch rivals, both North East sides are being represented in Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
There are three members of Eddie Howe’s side in the England team, while it also includes two players who were born and bred on Wearside.
One of those is current Everton goalkeeper Pickford, and he has gone out of his way to comment on Wilson’s performance against Iran.
The 30-year-old came off the bench on Monday afternoon, replacing captain Harry Kane. Wilson got an assist during his cameo, selflessly allowing Jack Grealish to score England’s sixth.
It was a promising performance from Wilson, and an injury scare for Kane has led to speculation that the Magpies striker could start on Friday against USA.
That now feels unlikely given the latest update on Kane’s condition, but Pickford has jumped to the defence of his international teammate Wilson following the captain’s fitness concern.
Pickford on Wilson’s performance vs Iran
Ahead of the game against USA, Pickford has been speaking to the media. He was asked about Kane’s fitness, and whether the 29-year-old is the only irreplaceable member of Southgate’s squad.
“I think everyone will take their chance,” Pickford said.
“When Harry came off at about 70 minutes, Callum came on and played really well. Got the assist for Jack, he was very unselfish and gave Jack his goal.
“Everyone’s training really hard. Everyone’s here for a reason – to play football. But obviously Harry is an unbelievable player. He sets the example in the squad, he’s the leader, he’s the captain and we all look up to him. But there’s also opportunities for other lads as well.”
Newcastle and Sunderland unite for World Cup glory
Normally it’s Newcastle and Sunderland going head to head, but the rivalry has been put on hold in Qatar.
Pickford is adored by the Mackems, and loathed on Tyneside. He is the villain every time he steps inside St James’ Park, and is always met with a chorus of boos. You even see fans dressing in dinosaur costumes to mock the goalkeeper.
But on the pitch it is a different story. Pickford wasn’t even asked about Newcastle’s number nine, but was quick to praise him.
That’s a testament to Wilson’s ability, and he certainly did well on his return to international football. He will hope for more opportunities at the World Cup, while Pickford will continue doing his best to stop Toon keeper Nick Pope replacing him.