Pope up for battle royale with captain Heaton

Nick Pope believes that he'll return to Turf Moor as an even better goalkeeper following his experience with the England squad.

England goalkeeper Nick Pope share a joke during the international friendly match at the Amsterdam ArenA.
England goalkeeper Nick Pope share a joke during the international friendly match at the Amsterdam ArenA.

The 25-year-old was rewarded for his tremendous form with a first ever call up to Gareth Southgate's 24-man group for friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy.

The former Charlton Athletic goalkeeper, who was still playing League Two football with Bury just three years ago, wasn't granted any game time during the international break but he accepts that his involvement has been priceless.

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"It's been enjoyable more than anything," he said. "The lads and the staff have all been great with me. It's a great environment to be in and it's been a massive learning curve for me.

"I found out more about myself and I think I've improved over the last 10 days. I've learned a lot so it's all pluses, all positives.

"It's Wembley, the home of football. It's somewhere that I've been before in my lifetime and I've dreamed of being a part of this. To be here as part of an England squad is superb.

"I watched them play Holland a few years ago so I've watched England games here and play-off finals and NFL.

"To be a part of it and sing the national anthem arm-in-arm, the whole thing, it's been a great experience."

Pope, coached by Billy Mercer domestically, while working with skipper Tom Heaton, Anders Lindegaard and Adam Legzdins, has been under the watchful eye of Welshman Martyn Margetson during the recent training camp alongside Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and Joe Hart.

And the Three Lions stopper acknowledges that such a wealth of collaborators can only enrich his education as a goalkeeper.

He said: "I feel that I've learned a lot over the last few weeks. I've trained with three top goalkeepers and 23 top players as well. If you can't learn from that then what can you learn from.

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"They are three top goalkeepers within a top squad. I've learned a lot and training with them has been awesome.

"It's been something that I've enjoyed with different sessions while different coaches have eyes on you. You get feedback that you can use to help improve yourself."

While Pope has a fight on his hands to get on the plane for the World Cup in Russia, he understands that his first battle is to retain his spot with the Clarets following Heaton's return to fitness.

"That's how it is," he said. "We've got two players in every position at Burnley that are top drawer. It'll be a fight from now until the end of the season. Heats is club captain and he's a top player and a top bloke. I've loved working with him and I'll go back to Burnley and we'll push each other again.

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"I spoke to him about England beforehand; I've been speaking to him all season. I've text him while I've been away on the training camp as well. We're still in touch and we're still supporting each other.

"Competition is what's best for the team. We're all pulling in the same direction. That's what is great about our squad and that's what has helped us get to where we are now.

"Only three goalkeepers can get on the plane [to Russia] so we'll have to see. There are eight games to go so I've just got to control what I can control. Come the end of the season I'll just have to see if I can make it."