Pope will continue to push hard for England
Nick Pope insists that he'll be preparing for England's final friendly against Costa Rica as though he's been given the nod by Gareth Southgate.
While the nation’s goalkeeping quartet, including Tom Heaton on the Three Lions standby list, have just 13 international appearances between them, the 26-year-old Clarets stopper remains the only one in that group to be uncapped ahead of the World Cup in Russia.
Pope, an unused substitute in games against Netherlands, Italy and Nigeria, says that he’ll continue to give his all in training, a pre-requisite for Burnley’s Player of the Year, as he looks to lay down a marker ahead of Thursday’s fixture at Elland Road.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, it’s been really good,” he said. “It’s a great squad to be around on and off the pitch. It’s quality.
“Since I came in to the set-up in March I’ve just been trying to get used to new training techniques. I’ve been training with top quality players so it’s been enjoyable.
“I’ve come in to a new group of people, a new group of players, so everything has been new to me.
“It’s been on another level and it doesn’t get any harder than England. To be in and around this level, it’s great for me.
“I always want to play, whether that’s with my club or while I’m away with England. I’m always looking to play and I always prepare as though I’m playing. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Jordan Pickford, the hot favourite to start England’s opener against Tunisia at the Volgograd Arena on June 18th, started in the victory against the Super Eagles at Wembley while Stoke City’s Jack Butland is widely regarded as the next in line.
Pope, though, says that the competition is healthy and, with the help of goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson, they’re bringing the best out of each other.
“We get on really well and we’re pushing each other every day which is what is best for the team,” he said. “We enjoy training together.
“With Tom (Heaton) there are four great characters. Training each day is hard but we’re pushing each other and that’s the way it should be.
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens, it’s obviously out of my hands.
“I’ll have to see what I can do over the next few weeks, few months or years to see if I can put myself in to a position to be number one.
“It’s one small step at a time, I’m happy to be in the squad now but I obviously want to push on as well.”
The England boss suggested that the most recent starting XI won’t be too far away from the one which might start the World Cup opener.
However, he revealed that places are still up for grabs ahead of their Group G campaign.
“I think we’ve been pretty clear for a fair while, but there is real competition for places in certain areas of the pitch,” said Southgate.
“Everyone has to maintain their levels because it can evolve with various different things.
“Everyone has to be ready to come into the side.”