Burnley keeper Nick Pope on the Premier League Golden Gloves award, Euro 2020 and the battle to be England’s number one
Nick Pope would love to emulate fellow Burnley keeper Joe Hart and win the Premier League Golden Gloves award.
The goalkeeper with the most clean sheets over the season lands the accolade, and, as we approach the halfway stage of the campaign, Pope’s six shut outs are only topped by Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel, who has one more.
Hart has claimed the prize four times, in successive seasons - 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13, as well as in 2014/15 - a record jointly held with Petr Cech.
Pope had 11 clean sheets in his breakthrough season in 2017/18 after Tom Heaton’s injury, and, asked about the prospect of challenging for the Golden Gloves this year, said: “That would be lovely wouldn’t it?
“That’s something I’ve not really thought about being at a club outside the top six as we currently are.
“It’s unlikely from the outside looking in, but we’ve started well and built up a few so far.
“Things like that, if we’re in March and we’re within one or two or whatever, and we’ve got a real chance, then it’s the kind of thing you can look towards then maybe.
“I’ll ask the gaffer to play six or seven at the back and we’ll keep it super tight!
“It’s something you don’t want to get caught up thinking about. It’s the defence as well.
“Personal goals are still massively a team thing.”
Pope is keeping Hart out of the Burnley side, but he feels the former England and Manchester City man is one of the Premier League’s goalkeepers of the decade: “He’s got to be mentioned, he’s got to be in the conversation, especially with what him and what Manchester City did to kind of break the mould of other teams winning the league.
“He was a massive part of that. That’s easily forgotten, which is really sad to be honest.
“He’s got to be mentioned because of his longevity as well, how long he’s done it for and I still see it now, day in, day out in training he’s still a top goalkeeper.”
Hart has been a huge help to Pope, showing what a top professional he is, when it would be quite easy to show his frustration at being left out for the best part of a year.
Asked how important Hart has been, Pope admitted: “Massive. I get on really well with Joe and Bailey (Peacock-Farrell).
“It's something that can't be underestimated. Joe's someone who's obviously done a lot more in the game than I will ever do - England, international, Champions League. His CV is incredible.
“So to have someone like that, and to be the person that he is to help me out, rather than see me as a direct rival and be acidic or toxic around me, he's totally the opposite.
“For him to lend me a hand almost daily, we get on really well on and off the pitch, so to have someone like that is amazing.
“He's been through a lot of years in the Premier League. He's played a hell of a lot of games and he's experienced a lot of things on and off the pitch.
“To be able to lean on someone like that having been through 50 Premier League games only myself, to be able to learn and for them to share their experience with me is massively vital and helps me grow as a player and a person.”
Hart has 75 caps for the Three Lions, with Pope at the start of his journey with the international side, having earned two so far, with his first start coming last month in Kosovo.
Pope got a huge lift from wearing the number one shirt for the first time, and smiled: “I got a similar buzz as to when I made my debut and these are landmarks and milestones in your career that no-one can ever take away.
“If my career finished tomorrow it would be there and it’s a massive thing and something I’m really proud of. I got to share that with my friends and family and everyone else who has supported me along the way.
“To come through and win was a nice thing as well, especially with a clean sheet.
“It was amazing. A year ago that felt so far away, so to come back and, first of all just be in squad, that was a massive boost.
“Really a confirmation of how well the season started and for all the hard work that had been put in the previous year.
“And to finish the three international breaks with a full England cap, I was over the moon with that.
“For him (Gareth Southgate) to even put me in for that game was a nice message for myself. It's an ongoing process the England thing. I'm still very new, five or six squads, two caps, so it's still the very early stages of building an England career, if we can call it that.”
It may be early days, but England will play their three group games at Euro 2020 at Wembley, the closest thing to hosting a tournament since the heady days of Euro 96, and Pope would love to be a part of it: “It’s something everyone is looking forward to and we’re speaking about it every camp.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity so to be part of that whether it’s playing or in the squad or whatever, it would be a massive thing.
“It’s something that’s a goal over the next six to eight months or whatever it is.
“In 1996 I was only four, you see all the images and you see video and you speak to people and you see how much of a massive achievement and a massive event it was.
“To be part of that is something everyone is looking forward to.”
And could Pope maybe even dislodge Everton’s Jordan Pickford as England number one? “It's possible. It's a target but it's a long way away, there's so much that can happen until then.
“If I put too much energy into thinking about that, it's taking your eye off the ball.
“There's no internationals until March now so it very much gets parked. You look week by week, game by game and doing my best for Burnley.
“I love playing for England and love being with those lads and training and being in that environment but, as soon as it's done, get back to the day in, day out of Burnley, and that's what's best for myself.”