The England goalkeeper is one of the heroes behind the Three Lions soaring into the World Cup semi-finals.
His superb performances against Colombia and Sweden has seen the Everton man earn a place in the nation’s hearts.
Now for Croatia on Wednesday night. Pickford was speaking to the press ahead of the last four tie and says the learning experiences at Alfreton and Darlington, both now in the National League North, helped his game considerably.
“I was only young so I was learning about game management and all that stuff,” Pickford said.
“That was the difficult task. Once you grasp it, the game becomes easier because you understand it more. Then when you come to the big stage you just have to perform.
“When I was growing up at Sunderland our goalkeeping coach Mark Prudhoe said the best thing for me was to go out on loan, that I was bored with youth-team football and was past that kind of thing.
“So I went and did my trade in the lower leagues to cross every bridge and one day become Sunderland’s No1. And that is what I achieved, and then you move on to the next challenge.”
He added: “You’re a young lad and you’re having stick hurled at you. That’s what teaches you and that’s what you laugh about now. And when you get that stick, that’s when you become better.”