Pope's form is no flash in the pan '“ he has consistently excelled

Judging by the way Nick Pope has taken to life in the Premier League, I see no reason why he can't maintain his remarkable rise to prominence with Gareth Southgate's England.

Friday, 23rd March 2018, 9:00 am
England goalkeeper Nick Pope during the training session at St George's Park, Burton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 20, 2018. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping.

Whether he gets his opportunity in the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam tonight, or against Italy under the arch at Wembley on Tuesday night remains to be seen.

But if it comes, I can’t see anything fazing the Soham-born 25-year-old.

Southgate has revaled he has a good idea of who will start in goal in the opening World Cup group game against Tunisia on June 18th.

And while you would imagine Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and Joe Hart – purely for his previous experience at that level – will be ahead of Pope in his thinking, there is no reason why he can’t force his way up the pecking order in the next 13 weeks.

Hart is the only keeper of Southgate’s four currently on duty to have even played senior tournament football, although Butland went to Euro 2012, and was then Team GB’s first-choice keeper at the Olympics that summer.

But a lack of experience hasn’t hindered Pope in any way, shape or form.

Being thrust into a Premier League debut shortly before half-time against Crystal Palace in September after Tom Heaton dislocated his shoulder wasn’t an ideal introduction to the top level.

He registered a clean sheet, however, with one big save from Christian Benteke particularly memorable.

A full Premier League bow at Anfield followed, which he also took in his stride, including one fine stop from Dominic Solanke, which drew praise from Peter Schmeichel.

He went on to claim six shut outs in his first nine starts in the top flight, and currently has 11 in 27, bettered only by David de Gea, Ederson, Thibaut Courtois and Hugo Lloris.

His save percentage of 80.2% is only topped by de Gea, and further statistics show he has saved 11 of 22 clear cut chances, again only beaten by de Gea.

The much-derided expected goals statistics outline Pope has prevented 10 goals being scored, 6.1 more than his closest rival Lukasz Fabianski, with de Gea again top of the pile with 14.3.

This is not just a good start to life in the Premier League, this is consistently outstanding form, up alongside some of the best keepers in World football.

His mentality in dealing with replacing the club captain, and what has followed, speaks volumes.

Asked whether he was pinching himself at turning out at grounds like Anfield or Old Trafford, he smiled: “A little bit. I was thinking more walking out on the ground ‘if you can’t enjoy playing football here, where can you?’.”

And maybe he can continue to enjoy his football this summer in Russia.