David Moyes insists Sunderland will not be pushed around by those interested in Jordan Pickford and believes the highly-talented goalkeeper would be making a mistake leaving for a bench role.
The performances of the home-grown 23-year-old have been one of the only positives in a grim campaign at the Stadium of Light.
Pickford has worked his way into the England squad and made the PFA Young Player of the Year shortlist, with such displays for the Black Cats attracting plenty of admiring glances.
Everton were this week reported to be increasingly confident of tying up a £17million deal for him – a story Moyes gave short shrift after the goalkeeper’s man-of-the-match display in Sunderland’s surprising 2-0 win at Hull.
The Scot says Pickford would cost substantially more and warned the player he would regret leaving the Championship-bound club for a back-up role in the top flight.
“At the moment, I really wouldn’t know,” Moyes said when asked about the goalkeeper’s future. “Obviously it’s up to the club.
“If Jordan was to go elsewhere and not be the number one, that wouldn’t be good for him because that would affect his progress.
“You can see what he does for us with the saves he makes. He’s been outstanding from day one.”
Asked if Pickford being a Sunderland fan would be in their favour, Moyes said: “I think that would be a telling factor if the alternative was to go and sit on the bench somewhere else.
“If I was Jordan I wouldn’t do that, I’d want to be playing regularly but again Sunderland hold his contract and Jordan can’t go anywhere unless we decide to let it happen.”
Pickford was joined in the starting line-up by fellow Sunderland academy graduate George Honeyman.
The 22-year-old midfielder produced a solid display on just his second Premier League start and came close to opening the scoring at the KCOM Stadium.
“I thought he played really well,” Moyes said. “I’ve got to say his level in training has lifted over the last two or three weeks. He’s been on the verge.
“He played very well at West Brom around Christmas time, I brought him in and then had to bring him back out again.
“But he came back today and because he does his work unconditionally, he doesn’t ask or look across to the bench, we don’t have to ask him to run between players or close people down.
“He does it completely unconditionally and always gives his best in every game.”
Honeyman’s contract at the Stadium of Light expires this summer, but Moyes wants to keep him and confirmed there is an appearance-related contract extension clause.
“Yes, there is something in his contract and it automatically means we retain him,” the Scot said. “I think there is one more game to go.
“Of course (we are looking to keep him). We don’t want to let any of our young players go.
“We want to build and we’ve got a few good young players. Nobody will really look at it until we get players like Duncan Watmore back, Paddy McNair coming in, even George Honeyman.
“Then you’ll start to see there really is a nucleus of four or five good young players here and hopefully they will all go the journey and stay with us and improve.”