Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope to get the nod for England?

Nick Pope is believed to be in line to start at least one of England’s forthcoming Nations League fixtures.
Nick Pope shows off the new England goalkeeping jerseyNick Pope shows off the new England goalkeeping jersey
Nick Pope shows off the new England goalkeeping jersey

Pope enjoyed an outstanding season with Burnley – where he collected a club Premier League record 15 clean sheets and only missed out on the Golden Glove on the last day to Manchester City’s Ederson.

And it has been suggested in the national media that the 28-year-old – Burnley’s Player and Players’ Player of the Year – is under serious consideration by boss Gareth Southgate to replace established number one Jordan Pickford for the game against Iceland in Reykjavik tomorrow, and Tuesday’s clash with Denmark in Copenhagan.

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Pope, who was also one of seven players shortlisted for the EA Sports Premier League Player of the Season, started England’s last game in November 2019, the 4-0 win in Pristina against Kosovo, as England rounded off their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, having already advanced to the tournament.

That was his first start for his country, as he became the first Burnley goalkeeper to make a competitive appearance for England since Colin McDonald, who played at the 1958 World Cup – with Tom Heaton’s three caps all came in friendly games.

Pope had made his debut as substitute for Jack Butland against Costa Rica at Elland Road ahead of the World Cup Finals in 2018, where he went as third choice.

Pope returned from Russia to come straight into the Burnley side for their Europa League second qualifying round first leg tie at Aberdeen, only to suffer a dislocated shoulder.

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However, he has returned to top form since recovering, and has taken over as the out and out number one at Burnley, with Tom Heaton sold to Aston Villa, and Joe Hart released at the end of his contract in June.

Pope’s form has been in stark contrast to Pickford, who starred in Russia, where his stop from Carlos Bacca helped Eric Dier score the decisive penalty to beat Colombia and earn a place in the quarter-finals – coming after one of the saves of the World Cup from Mateus Uribe’s thumping 30-yard drive.

Pickford has been the top pick since, but the 26-year-old has come in for criticism for his form over last season, where he made four errors leading to goals.

Only Newcastle United keeper Martin Dubravka made more, with five, across the Premier League.

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Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti even said in July, following a defeat to Wolves: “He’s not doing well.

“I spoke to him about this. There is absolutely no problem. For the quality that he has, and he agreed, he has to be better.

“He has to be focused on himself, on his performance, day by day to be better.

“I’m not so worried because he has quality, he has character, but I have to say to him, and I did say to him, that he has to improve.”

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Sky Sports’ Power Rankings from last season had Pope ahead of Dean Henderson as England’s best performing keeper, with Pickford’s performances placing him below Aaron Ramsdale, Alex McCarthy and Ben Foster.

Southgate admitted after the squad announcement last week in his Zoom press conference that the number one jersey is up for grabs: “I think we’ve had a period of 10 months without a game, and within that period, there has been various fluctuations in form across every position.

“There is competition for places in every position on the pitch.

“I can only say of Jordan that in his 24 caps for us, he’s been excellent, his performances for England have always been at a high level.

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“I think it’s fair to say he’s had a challenging period with his club, but I think all of the goalkeepers on the list have had good moments and goals have gone in they would have hoped to have done better with.

“So we’re looking forward to getting back working with them, first and foremost, and it’s for them to go and claim the shirt.”