England boss Gareth Southgate explains decision to recall Burnley's Nick Pope
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Pope, who has earned seven caps under Southgate, going back over almost four years, was left out of the last two squads for the final qualifying games for the Qatar World Cup.
Then, Southgate prefered West Brom’s Sam Johnstone, who had, with Aaron Ramsdale, stepped in for Pope and Manchester United’s Dean Henderson due to injury at Euro 2020.
But with the Baggies struggling for form and off the play-off pace in the Championship, with the former Manchester United youngster having made a couple of costly mistakes against Huddersfield Town at the weekend, Pope’s consistency in the Premier League with Burnley has paid off.
Ahead of the Wembley friendlies with Switzerland and Ivory Coast – against whom Pope could come up against club mate Maxwel Cornet – Southgate said: "We were very pleased with with Sam Johnstone did through the summer, and his profile of being able to use the ball with his feet is important, but I think when you’re playing in the Championship, you’ve got to be playing at the very top with minimal errors to be able to keep out a goalkeeper who is playing well in the Premier League.
"Nick was, I think, slightly under par, right at the beginning of the season, I think his performances from then on have been good and strong.
"We know what he’s about, so he’s a very good goalkeeper, and I know Sean obviously has a view on all of that, but it’s great to have him back in the squad.”
However, even with Arsenal’s Ramsdale performing well, Southgate made his feelings clear that Everton’s Jordan Pickford remains the man in possession of the number one jersey.
And he also outlined an area where Pope has to improve, in terms of his distribution with his feet – probably the one weak aspect of a very strong all-round goalkeeping arsenal.
Southgate is determined to utilise a modern goalkeeper, capable of developing attacks with incisive passes from the back, and said: "I think you want that competition, there are areas for them all to improve, and the idea is if we are going to be a really top team, they have to be outstanding at keeping the ball out of the net – number one, but also we want goalkeepers that can use the ball well and progress the game.
"Under the biggest pressure moments, you want a goalkeeper that can play out from the back well, and then how are they going to handle pressure, because everybody would have a view on Jordan Pickford, but what you can’t dispute about Jordan is he’s dealt with the pressure of being England number one extremely well.
"A lot of goalkeepers over the years haven’t been able to handle that, and he’s fulfilled that in the biggest tournaments, in the biggest moments, so the others have still got to chase him, and it’s important we acknowledge that fact.”