Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is delighted with his progress this season.

He was handed a squad number before the start of the season and also appeared in the club's official first-team photograph alongside senior stoppers Simon Mignolet and Keiren Westwood.

"It felt really good to get that squad number and be in the picture - I'm a step closer to my dream," he told safc.com.

"I have always wanted to play for Sunderland ever since I was a kid. It felt good to go away with the team in pre-season and to actually get on the pitch [in South Korea] was brilliant.

"Things are going well with the under-21s and it's definitely a better league this year. It feels more competitive.

"We had a great result at Stoke the other night and deserved to win. It was a tough game. The standard has gone up across the league and I can definitely tell that in the games I've played.

"The games are faster, there's a lot more to do and a lot more decisions to make during the course of a match."