Burnley stopper Nick Pope has set tongues wagging over his recent Premier League performances, though do these displays warrant an international call-up?
The 2018 Russia World Cup is creeping upon us, sparking speculation around which 23 men will earn a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad.
Current Keeper Situation:Embed from Getty Images
The current keeper situation is not a pleasant one for the Three Lions, with a series of unconvincing performances from former England No. 2 Fraser Forster at struggling Southampton and previous backup Tom Heaton sustaining a serious shoulder injury.
A few years back Joe Hart looked like he would develop into an England legend, with some stellar performances and two Premier League winners’ medals while he was No.1. However, in recent times, his confidence has taken a severe bashing.
Deemed surplus to requirements by Guardiola, Hart has put in a series of unconvincing performances whilst out on loan, firstly in Italy at Torino, and now at West Ham where he has been dropped as first choice.Embed from Getty Images
Former England U21 keeper Jordan Pickford has near enough cemented his place in the World Cup squad, with Southgate having previously called him up into qualifying and friendly squads. Pickford has also made some quality saves at Everton, with many fans speculating Everton could be far worse off in the league without him.
Jack Butland is another keeper who looks to be part of Southgate’s plans, he is currently top of the Premier League saves table, and already has six England caps to his name.
England have two friendlies coming up at the end of March, The Netherlands on the 23rd and Italy on the 27th. With Pickford and Butland battling to be No.1, who will fill the third-choice spot? Step forward Nick Pope.
Pope’s JourneyEmbed from Getty Images
Pope started his professional career at Charlton Athletic and enjoyed successful loan spells at non-league sides including Aldershot Town and Welling United.
In 2015, Pope established himself as first choice at Charlton in the Championship, and his impressive performances earned him a transfer to Premier League side Burnley for an undisclosed fee. However, in his first season he was limited to just four cup appearances.
An injury to Tom Heaton resulted in Pope making his Premier League debut in the 2017/18 season, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in early September.
Since that day Pope hasn’t looked back and has established himself as an accomplished Premier League keeper, making decisive saves and looking very comfortable and commanding between the sticks.
If stats are anything to go by (and they often are) Pope’s 2017/18 record for Burnley certainly deserves recognition from Southgate. The 25-year-old has amassed a total of nine clean sheets in 25 Premier League appearances, ranking him above any other English goalkeeper.
Pope is also seventh in the league for shots saved, marginally behind fellow England prospect Jordan Pickford.
Statistically, Pope is within the top three English keepers in the league, and his confidence will have been majorly boosted by playing with such a high flying-outfit in Burnley, who are experiencing a fantastic season.
However, cynics will be quick to point out Pope has no international experience, and one good season may not warrant an international call-up, but surely the dire displays from Joe Hart and Fraser Forster warrant Southgate to explore other options, and the meteoric rise of Pope must surely mean he is in contention to be a backup keeper.
It will be interesting to see if Pope makes Southgate’s friendly squad for the games against the Netherlands and Italy. If he does make the squad and puts in a decent performance, there is every chance Pope could make it on the plane to Russia.
Written by Calum Ridgewell.