Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope returns to the England squad
Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope is back in the England squad.
Pope will again link up with the Three Lions for the friendlies at Wembley against Switzerland and Ivory Coast, where he could face club mate Maxwel Cornet.
Pope has been overlooked since the selection at the end of September for games against Andorra and Hungary, and then in November against Albania and San Marino, as the Three Lions confirmed their place at Qatar 2022.
Aaron Ramsdale and Sam Johnstone were selected to challenge long time number one Jordan Pickford, having been with the squad for Euro 2020, stepping in for Pope, who required knee surgery at the end of last season, and Dean Henderson.
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Ramsdale subsequently made a big money move from Sheffield United to Arsenal, and Southgate explained seven-cap Pope’s omission in September: "Nick is still, I think, coming back from the injury he had a little bit, and I think Aaron is just in a better vein of form at the moment
"From Aaron’s perspective, I think the move to a club with high expectation, a style of play where he is asked to build with his feet from the back which he is coping with really well.”
Pope’s distribution has come under scrutiny, but his all-round game has returned to his previous levels, producing a string of saves of late, impressing in front of Southgate in the win over Tottenham, while Brendan Rodgers hailed him as “top-class” after the Foxes’ victory at Turf Moor.
Sean Dyche never doubted his number one, saying recently: “I never thought he wasn't at the level, it's just Gareth can only pick who he thinks is right.
"I certainly believe Popey is an England-level goalkeeper, but I don't pick the team, I have total respect for Gareth and he has to pick the players he thinks are right for his side.”
Johnstone is the keeper to make way, the former Manchester United youngster having recently made a couple of costly errors against Huddersfield Town.
Johnstone, 28, is out of contract in the summer and has been heavily linked with a move to West Ham.
The full squad is: Pickford, Pope, Ramsdale; Alexander-Arnold, Coady, Guehi, James, Maguire, Mings, Shaw, Stones, White; Bellingham, Gallagher, Henderson, Mount, Rice, Ward-Prowse; Abraham, Foden, Grealish, Kane, Saka, Smith-Rowe, Sterling.