Steve Harper has encouraged Northern Ireland goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell to learn from England’s Jordan Pickford after losing his place at Leeds.
Peacock-Farrell began the season as first choice at Elland Road but dropped down to the bench in January after Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa signed Kiko Casilla from Real Madrid.
Northern Ireland’s new goalkeeping coach sees parallels to the situation at Sunderland when he joined in January 2016, just as a 21-year-old Pickford lost his place to Vito Mannone.
Thank you for all the best wishes, I can’t wait to get started next week & I’ve been very impressed by the Manager and all of the staff @NorthernIreland so far. I have to thank Nigel, Walks, Tommy, Packie & the team @OfficialIrishFA Coach Education for getting me this far.
— Stephen Harper (@steveharper37) March 12, 2019
Harper believes Pickford came back from the experience a better goalkeeper and wants Peacock-Farrell to do the same.
“Obviously he’s disappointed to be left out,” Harper said. “On the bus earlier I was chatting to him about the scenario I had with Jordan Pickford at Sunderland when I went there.
“He wasn’t in the team but he was working incredibly hard in the gym, doing the extra work so when his opportunity came he was ready.
“When you do get left out if you take it the wrong way – you don’t train well, don’t do the extra work – when your opportunity does come then you aren’t ready.
“Jordan was working very hard and when he got his opportunity he was ready.”
Peacock-Farrell should get another chance at Leeds sooner rather than later after Casilla was sent off in their final game before the international break, a 1-0 home defeat to promotion rivals Sheffield United.
“He’s a young lad to have played 27 (league) games for a big club like Leeds,” Harper added. “It’s great experience, great exposure at a good level in the Championship and they’re now only a heartbeat away from the Premier League.”
Peacock-Farrell was Northern Ireland’s first choice during last year’s unsuccessful Nations League campaign – though Trevor Carson started the final match against Austria once their hopes of avoiding relegation were already over – and he will hope to be in goal again on Thursday when Northern Ireland begin their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign against Estonia.
Of the three goalkeepers in Michael O’Neill’s squad, only Conor Hazard is getting a regular game at present, out on loan from Celtic at Partick Thistle, with Michael McGovern limited to five appearances as a reserve at Norwich.
Getting them ready to play international football is a challenge Harper is relishing after unexpectedly getting the job following Maik Taylor’s exit at the start of the month.
Harper did his coaching qualifications with the Irish Football Association and has been coaching the under-23 goalkeepers at Newcastle since 2016, but admitted the job offer from O’Neill was a welcome surprise after a chance meeting at a Newcastle match earlier this year.
“It came out of the blue,” he said. “Given where I was at, just completing a sporting directorship masters degree in Manchester and moving into full-time, it was a surprise opportunity for me.
“It was telling me you need to grab it with both hands.”