Neville Southall insists Jordan Pickford is not to blame for Everton's woes and believes he is rightfully England's first-choice goalkeeper.

Pickford captained Everton as Frank Lampard's team capitulated to another dismal away defeat on Wednesday, this time to relegation rivals Burnley.

Two penalties from Richarlison had put Everton 2-1 up at Turf Moor heading into half-time yet Jay Rodriguez and Maxwel Cornet struck to seal a 3-2 victory for Burnley that takes the Clarets to within a point of Lampard's side, who sit 17th with nine games remaining.

Pickford was hardly at fault for any of Burnley's goals and has been a consistent performer for Everton despite their torrid form.

The 28-year-old's place as England number one has been called into question this term, due in large part to Aaron Ramsdale's strong form for Arsenal, though Gareth Southgate has stood by Pickford, who has played a pivotal role in the Three Lions reaching a World Cup semi-final and the final of Euro 2020.

Asked about Pickford by Sky Sports, Everton great Southall, who was their goalkeeper throughout the club's successful spell in the 1980s, said: "Confidence plays a part in it. Jordan Pickford's done nothing wrong this season.

"Unfortunately at the moment, we've got Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal and traditionally most of the media want somebody to play [for England] from a London club.

"So he's always going to be under more scrutiny because he's playing for a club up north. I truly believe there's been a witch hunt against him through the media at times and I think it's just silly.

"He's a decent goalkeeper, playing for England. Is he going to make mistakes? Of course he is, because he's human."

Southall also believes fans and pundits have to be more aware of the potential damage that being highly critical of players can do to their mental wellbeing.

"We've got to think about what we say to these players," he continued. "Telling them all the time that they can't do stuff. 

"We should start saying that they can do it. They don't know what damage they're doing. You're entitled to an opinion but some of the language I think has been over the top and it can affect some of the players. For me it's about looking after the players' welfare."

Everton's situation makes for grim reading. Lampard has lost all five of his Premier League away games in charge of the club – he is the first manager to lose his first five away matches at a Premier League side since Jan Siewert at Huddersfield Town in 2019, who lost his first seven.

Southall, though, has put the onus on the players to step up after mistakes from Ben Godfrey and Jonjoe Kenny proved costly at Turf Moor.

"I wouldn't say any, to be fair," Southall said when asked how much responsibility fell on Lampard's shoulders.

"Whoever he puts out it's up to them to do the job. It's all about the players on the pitch. The players have to emulate the fans, passion, expression, desire and if they show them things I think we'll get results."

Everton face Manchester United at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Dele Alli must power through the mental barrier to rediscover his form for Everton otherwise his wasted potential will be a "tragedy", according to Toffees great Neville Southall.

England international Alli ended a seven-year spell with Tottenham to move to Goodison Park in January, with the midfielder signing a two-and-a-half-year deal in what was reported as an initial free transfer.

Everton will reportedly be obliged to pay £10million for the midfielder after he makes 20 appearances and subsequent performance-based add-ons may take the eventual figure as high as £40m.

The 25-year-old is yet to find his feet on Merseyside, while a torrid run of form has left Everton just one point above the relegation zone after earning only 12 points since the start of October.

However, former Toffees goalkeeper Southall told Sky Sports News on Monday how talented Alli could be if Frank Lampard can help him regain his confidence.

"It's difficult. He's obviously not ready. There's something in his head that he can't get through the barrier, that means he can't get on the pitch or there's something missing at the moment," he said of Alli.

"It takes some people a long time. If Dele Alli gets back to being Dele Alli, he'll be a bargain. If Dele Alli doesn't come back, it'll be a tragedy. It'll be a tragedy for the lad, and that's all I'm concerned about, is that he finds himself and his happiness and that will show on the pitch.

"At the moment he looks reasonably happy but he's not played for such a long time, it's a difficult choice for Frank Lampard, does he put him in, risk an injury, is he 100 per cent fit?

"He's certainly not match fit, so for me it's about maybe not using him and getting him ready for next season, give him a break from the pressure, and he comes back and is what he is because everyone needs Dele Alli when he's at it."

Alli is yet to start for his new club in the Premier League, making six appearances as a substitute for his 169 minutes, while he does not have a goal or assist to his name.

He has created five chances this season for Everton from his limited opportunities on the pitch, which is in stark contrast to his best seasons at Spurs.

Alli's best campaign in north London came in 2016-17, when he scored 22 goals in 50 appearances across all competitions, averaging a goal every 182 minutes. He followed that up with 29 direct goal involvements (14 goals, 15 assists) in the 2017-18 campaign.

That ensured a prominent role for Alli at the 2018 World Cup, where England reached the semi-finals, and former manager Mauricio Pochettino went as far as describing him as the best young player in the world.

Lampard will be hoping he can tap into that potential as Everton battle the drop, with their next fixture coming at home to Manchester United on Saturday.

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