Sunderland have recalled goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from his loan spell at Preston North End, it has been confirmed.
Pickford, 21, had been impressive in his time in Lancashire and has cemented his place as England Under 21s first choice keeper.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has spent a number of weeks considering whether to recall Pickford to his struggling squad and has made the decision to do so, as The Black Cats head into 2016 in the Premier League relegation zone.
Pickford kept 13 clean sheets in 27 games for newly promoted Preston, impressing with a string of top drawer performances.
He has also apparently attracted interest from other Premier League sides with his performances, which may bring Sunderland’s ability to keep him in the long run under threat.
Sunderland have now activated the recall clause in Pickford’s loan deal and he will now compete with Costel Pantilimon and Vito Mannone to be the man in between the sticks at The Stadium of Light.
He will not be available for Sunderlands game on Saturday at home to Aston Villa.
Preston manager Simon Grayson said of Pickford “Jordan has gone back. We had an agreement in the summer that he would be for the year but obviously Sunderland had an option that they could recall him in January if they needed to.
“Given how well he has played, it is not a surprise they have called him back.
“Sam Allardyce wants to have a look at him and Jordan goes back with our thanks, we are grateful for what he has done for us.
“The lad has been fantastic to work with, he has contributed massively.
“He is going to be a top goalkeeper, whether that is at Sunderland or further down the line somewhere else.”
Preston have replaced Pickford by signing another Premier League goalkeeper on loan, with Sam Johnstone coming in from Manchester United.
Preston currently lie 17th in The Championship after 24 games.