Saving a penalty that helped England advance to the World Cup quarter-finals looked a million miles away when Jordan Pickford made his first-team debut in January 2012.
Pickford attended the St Robert of Newminster Catholic School in Washington before, when just 17 years old, he turned out for Darlington in a 1-0 defeat to Fleetwood in the Blue Square Premier League.
The shot-stopper made 100 appearances during loan spells with the Quakers, Alfreton, Burton, Carlisle, Bradford and Preston before he was given a chance at the top level by boyhood club Sunderland just two years ago.
Pickford joined Sunderland’s Academy at the age of eight and progressed through age groups at the club before signing his first professional contract in 2011.
A series of loans followed. They started at Darlington, where he made 17 appearances, and continued the following season with Conference Premier Alfreton, where he kept five clean sheets in 12 matches.
Pickford was sent out on loan to League Two Burton at the start of the 2013-14 season but was recalled by Sunderland after making just three appearances for the Brewers. However, he returned to Burton in September and made a total of 12 appearances for the club across both spells before again being recalled by Sunderland.
He made 11 appearances as an unused substitute for the Black Cats between November and January.
He then went back out on loan to League One Carlisle and made 18 appearances for the Cumbrians before at the end of the season agreeing a four-year contract at the Stadium of Light that tied him to the club until 2018.
A season-long loan in League One with Bradford followed in 2014-15 and the following season he stepped up to the Championship with a stint at Preston, before he was recalled by Sunderland in January.
Then, after 100 appearances during his various loan spells, things took off for Pickford.
He was handed his debut by the Black Cats in January 2016 in an FA Cup tie that saw Sunderland beaten 3-1 by Arsenal.
He was given his Premier League debut the following week as Sunderland went down to a 4-1 defeat against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
That Premier League appearance meant Pickford had played in each of the top five leagues in England by the age of 21.
Shortly after his Premier League debut he signed an extension to his Sunderland contract, committing himself to the club until 2020.
He began the 2016-17 campaign as understudy to Vito Mannone but an injury to the Italian early in the season opened the door for him and at the end of the season he was one of six players to be shortlisted for the PFA young Player of the Year award.
After Sunderland were relegated, he joined Everton on a five-year contract for an initial fee of £25million that made him the most expensive British goalkeeper in history. Eyebrows were raised – but by few on Wearside.
After representing England from Under-16s to Under-21s, Pickford was given his international debut in a friendly with Germany in November, 2017.
He then won a place in the World Cup squad and started against Tunisia, Panama, Belgium and Colombia, with his penalty save from Carlos Bacca in the shootout win over the latter enabling England to advance to a quarter-final against Sweden on Saturday.
This weekend’s World Cup quarter-final fixtures:
Friday 6th July
Uruguay v France – 3:00pm
Brazil v Belgium – 7:00pm
Saturday 7th July
Sweden v England – 3:00pm
Russia v Croatia – 7:00pm
Picture: Jordan Pickford. (NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA).