New Zealand international goalkeeper Michael Woud believes that the criticism England stopper Jordan Pickford receives is often “difficult to understand".
Woud and Pickford were together at Sunderland between 2015 and 2017 after the Kiwi joined the North East club following a successful trial.
Speaking exclusively to Tribal Football, the 21-year-old described Pickford as a “good guy" who is “not too serious about himself".
“Jordan Pickford is a really good goalkeeper and some of the criticism he gets is difficult to understand. He is a really good guy, he is down to earth and he helped me a lot in my game. He is just a football player that is not too serious about himself and he gave me tips every day. I was lucky to work with him and see him make his Premier League debut and develop over the last few years.
“Sometimes goalkeepers are criticised unfairly but it is the job that we have and that is why you have to trust the coaches you have. It is not an easy position, but that is the life of a football player. There are always people that will criticise you and think you should do better, but it's just part of the job."
While New Zealanders like Chris Wood, Winston Reid and Ryan Nelson have made their mark in the Premier League, the country most famous for its Rugby Union side is not renowned for its footballing prowess.
As a young player, Woud acknowledged that going to Europe was his best chance of making it as a professional and he was spotted by Sunderland while playing at a tournament in Manchester.
“I went to tournament in Manchester called Nike Cup around five years ago with a team from New Zealand, and I got scouted by Sunderland and went on trial," he explained.
“They were happy with me and I signed as a 16-year-old. I had three years there before making the move to Willem. Sunderland is a massive club and they were in the Premier League at the time with some great players. It is sad to see where they are now, but it was great to be there. I trained with Pickford and I learned a lot. It is good being in an environment like that, but you need to know the time to move on and as a goalkeeper the most important thing is to play games. I really enjoyed my time there and I am sure they can get back to the top."
Unfortunately for many young players, the cutthroat nature of the Premier League means that managers often lean on their more experienced campaigners.
It was this, Woud explained, that prompted him to move to the Netherlands in 2018.
“It comes down to opportunities," he said.
“For me, I was not going to accept sitting around at 22 or 23, just not playing, earning good money but not the opportunity to perform. It is difficult to give young players opportunities at a big club like Sunderland, especially goalkeepers. It is the cycle of football and when there are offers they sometimes have to let the players go if the situation is right."