Pope earns first England cap ahead of World Cup

Nick Pope
Nick Pope

Nick Pope earned his first England cap as a second half substitute in the win over Costa Rica at Elland Road.

Stoke City’s Jack Butland started the Three Lions’ final World Cup warm-up game, with Pope introduced in the 65th minute to crown a remarkable season.

The game finished 2-0 courtesy of a stunning strike from Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford after 13 minutes, and a second from substitute Danny Welbeck of Arsenal with 14 minutes remaining.

Pope is Burnley’s 29th senior England international, and the third to make his debut this season after Jack Cork against Germany, and James Tarkowski against Italy.

And Pope is ready to make the most of the opportunity handed to him by boss Gareth Southgate.

The 26-year-old hadn’t played a single Premier League fixture nine months ago, but 12 clean sheets and a Player of the Year award later, the Clarets goalkeeper is heading to the World Cup in Russia.

The Soham-born stopper reached the League 2 play-offs with York City when the tournament was last held in Brazil but he seized his opportunity following a stunning campaign domestically, having stepped in for injured Clarets captain Tom Heaton.

Pope said: “As a kid you watch every World Cup you can, so to be a part of it will be really special. It’s something that I’m really looking forward to.

“It’s so rare because it’s every four years, so you don’t get many opportunities in your career, especially when you start late like me.

“I was late into Premier League football compared to most players. They are few and far between, the opportunities aren’t always there.

“Then you’ve got to be good enough and lucky enough to make it. It’s a special occasion and one myself and everyone else are looking forward to.”

Pope’s development has risen at an outstanding rate this season and he owes it all to the various influences at club and international level throughout his career.

“Throughout my career there have been people that I’ve always tried to learn from, whether it’s been coaches, goalkeeping coaches, managers, or other goalkeepers,” he said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do throughout my career, I’ve tried to take little pieces of their character or parts of their game so I can try to improve my own.”

England’s first game in Group G against Tunisia kicks off at 7 p.m. on June 18th at the Volgograd Arena. They then face Panama at the Stadion Nizhny Novgorod on June 24th before taking on Belgium at the Kaliningrad Stadium on June 28th.