When Burnley suffered the loss of highly-rated England goalkeeper Tom Heaton trough injury in mid-September, it seemed like a major blow to the Clarets.
Sean Dyche’s team had become a well-drilled defensive unit, with Heaton a safe pair of hands behind the backline. However, the Clarets fans did not need to worry, as in number two ‘keeper Nick Pope they had a very able deputy to Heaton.
On Tuesday night, the Clarets recorded a 1-0 win over Stoke at Turf Moor to move into the Premier League top-four. Pope played a vital role in the win, making a string of saves to deny the visitors anything from the game.
Pope was an unfamiliar face
To most Premier League fans, Nick Pope will have been an unfamiliar name. I had to admit that when he first broke into the Burnley team I had to Google him.
However, slowly but surely he has been making a name for himself in the English top-flight. The 25-year-old has now kept clean sheets in seven of his 13 Premier League appearances, which is a decent record.
The fact that he is a goalkeeper with such little top-flight experience it is an even more impressive record.
Pope’s journey to the Premier League was not an easy one. The goalkeeper was contracted to Charlton Athletic for five years. However, made just 33 league appearances for the Addicks.
During his time at Charlton, Pope had loan spells at Welling United, Harrow Borough, Cambridge United, York City and Bury. Not exactly clubs you would associate with a future top-flight star.
However, in those loan spells, he showed his talent in flashes, especially doing his time at Bury when they won promotion to League One.
Heaton has a fight on his hands for number one jersey
England international Tom Heaton has been outstanding for Burnley in recent years. The experienced former Cardiff man has at times kept his team in games and won countless points with his saves.
For a long time, Heaton has been the undisputed number one at Turf Moor. However, when the 31-year-old returns to action from injury, boss Sean Dyche has a very pleasant selection dilemma on his hands.
If Pope continues in his current vein of form in-between the sticks for the Clarets, then it would be very hard to drop the former Charlton star.
However, Heaton is the team’s number one and highly rated, so it is a difficult decision for Dyche to make in the near future.
Talk of an England call-up
As with every English player that makes a good start to life in the Premier League, Pope has been linked with a call-up to the England squad.
The 25-year-old’s form has definitely given England boss Gareth Southgate something to think about for the next squad. Everton’s Jordan Pickford looks to be in possession of the number one jersey.
West Ham boss David Moyes has dropped former number one Joe Hart to the bench at the London Stadium. Pickford is playing is in front of a vastly improved Toffees defence of late, so has conceded far fewer goals than earlier in the season.
Then there is also Stoke’s Jack Butland, who like Pickford is regarded as one of the brightest goalkeeping prospects available to boss Southgate.
Clubmate Heaton has also been in and around the England squad in the last few years. Meanwhile Southampton’s Fraser Forster is another hoping to impress in the next couple of months with next year’s World Cup on the horizon.
Pope is an outsider to make the World Cup squad at 25/1. Those odds are understandable considering the amount of competition for a place in that squad. However, you just never know, as a lot can happen in seven months.
For now, though, I am sure that Pope is happy just to be playing well and helping his team pick up points. He has made a very promising start to his top-flight. Long may it continue.
Will Nick Pope be in England’s next squad?
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