Behind door number #8 is... James Talbot!
The similarities between Everton’s Jordan Pickford and Sunderland youngster James Talbot are quite easy to see.
Both are big, composed and energetic; both have striking blonde hair. Both lads came through the Sunderland youth system as goalkeepers and enjoy close personal relationships with Kevin Ball, a mentor who has guided each of them on their paths towards forging careers in the professional game.
When Talbot joined local club Darlington on loan yesterday it struck up yet another comparison to Pickford, who also spent a spell out on loan with the County Durham side as a fresh-faced 17-year old.
It turned out to be the move which set Pickford on a path to greatness, one that has him as the pick of the English goalkeepers in his generation, with there being a very real possibility that he could start next Summer’s World Cup Finals as number one.
Talbot too has high hopes for his international future, and in an interview with Darlington’s official website today the Republic of Ireland U19s cap revealed his immediate ambitions for representing his country on a higher platform.
When asked if he was looking forward to the loan spell at the National League North club, Talbot - a man of few words - said:
Yeah, buzzin’, just... being with the lads, like, big game on Saturday so straight into it - I’m buzzin’ to get started.
(The Premier League 2) is good, (but) obviously this is a different type of football - I’m looking forward to it.
I’m hoping to get a (ROI) U21’s call up in the next year. There’s a couple of good keepers in there now, so I need to be playing to get that chance, so I’m looking forward to this.
Though Talbot joins Ed Wilczynski in competing for the number one shirt at Darlington, in truth it’s his to lose. With Adam Barlett - who left to join fellow National league North side York City last month - out of the door, the Quakers will need to settle on one man between the sticks and whilst initially Talbot will face some competition for his place, it would be fair to suggest that Sunderland didn’t agree to send him there just so he could warm a bench.
I for one will be watching Talbot’s progress at Darlington with particularly close attention. Anyone that talks Sunderland with me knows just how highly I rate him, and I mean it when I say that Talbot is genuinely the most talented goalkeeper we currently have in our ranks.
Not only is he a fine shot stopper, but Talbot is a commanding presence and has all of the raw abilities needed in order for him to make it here. As with any player though he needs to be playing regularly at a competitive level in order for him to develop further, and should he make the most of his stint at Darlington he’ll surely go on to find even better opportunities at Football League clubs down the line.