Burnley's Nick Pope talks injury, rehab, having no regrets and Aaron Ramsdale's England call
The 29-year-old required surgery on a knee injury that had been sustained at the back end of the 2020-21 campaign, and was unable to join the Three Lions.
The Clarets’ two-time Player of the Year, who had previously pushed Manchester City’s Ederson all the way for the Golden Glove accolade, was in the stands as England featured in their first major tournament final since 1966.
But it’s not a case of having any regrets for Pope, who revealed that the option to undergo an operation was out of his hands. The former Charlton Athletic stopper confirmed that the choice he made was one out of necessity.
“It wasn’t really a difficult decision because I couldn’t walk,” he said. “We gave it the best chance and I tried training on it after having a few weeks of rehabilitation and work on it and it just wasn’t possible, so it wasn’t really a decision, it was just something that had to be done.
“It was a really difficult time to go through it and it was disappointing. I made a decision and within 48 hours I was having surgery.
“That’s great for the injury but not so great for the realisation that I wasn’t going to be part of a home major tournament.”
Pope added: “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity so it was difficult, but it was something that had to be done. It was impossible for me to train or play so I wouldn’t have been much use in the squad anyway.
“Sometimes you need procedures done to help you perform at a high level. I tried to train before the game against Sheffield United and I couldn’t.
“That said it all for me, which was good because I had clarity in my mind. I knew it was the right decision; there were no ‘ifs’, ‘buts’, or ‘maybes’. It was something that had to be done.”
The 2019-20 PFA Premier League Team of the Year entrant, who missed Burnley’s final three games last season, returned for the club’s home defeat to Brighton at the start of this term and was back on international duty in September.
However, he was overlooked by Gareth Southgate for the final World Cup qualifiers in Group I, taking in games against Andorra, Hungary, Albania and San Marino during the months of October and November.
Aaron Ramsdale and West Brom’s Sam Johnstone were, instead, invited to join the group at St George’s Park, but Pope doesn’t hold any grudges, adding that Arsenal’s PL Player of the Month nominee is more than capable of pushing Jordan Pickford.
“I think Aaron’s always been a good goalkeeper,” he said. “Obviously when you’re not at a big club, people maybe don’t realise that as much. But he’s taken his opportunity really well and I’m glad to see him putting in some good performances for Arsenal.
“He’s someone I’ve come across at England camps and at games when he’s been at Bournemouth and Sheffield United, and he’s someone I’ve really enjoyed talking to. I think he’s a really good lad, and it’s good to see him progressing really nicely.”
Pope, though, responded to his omission in the best possible manner. The Turf Moor star was back to his best at Stamford Bridge as he made important saves to deny Callum Hudson-Odoi in either half and Euro 2020 winner Jorginho, while keeping out a deflected Reece James cross.
Asked about his recovery time, Pope finished: “When the injury incorporates an off-season, it is positive in that you don’t miss any games, but then you don’t have the games and training time you normally would when you come back from injury.
“That was different about the scenario.
“I did everything I could, I wouldn’t change anything about my rehab.
“I had really good people around me and a really good surgeon and the surgery went really well, but it is just one of those things and it takes time sometimes.
“The hardest part of being a football player is being injured and not being able to do what you like to do and have no impact on a result.”