Spell on the sidelines has helped Nick Pope mature, insists Burnley boss Sean Dyche
In a strange sort of way, Sean Dyche feels Nick Pope’s frustrating time on the sidelines has served him well.
Pope effectively sat out last season, making only two appearances, in the FA Cup, having dislocated his shoulder at Aberdeen in the Europa League in July.
That low came days after returning from the high of being with the England squad which made the World Cup semi-finals in Russia.
However, now back to full fitness, and having emerged as Burnley’s number one after the sale of Tom Heaton to Aston Villa, Pope made his first start for England in Kosovo on Sunday.
Asked whether he is a better keeper than two years ago, when he had just burst onto the scene, replacing Heaton, who, coincidentally had suffered a dislocated shoulder, Dyche said: “With a period out, Nick was open minded. You reflect on what you’ve learnt and what you’ve seen.
“When you come back, you come back with a little more thought and depth.
“When you’re in it, you are doing it.
“But when you step back, you absorb things in a different way.
“He continues to mature, and so does his game.
“His attention to detail continues to mature.
“We’ve had games where we’ve not had a lot to do, but Nick has delivered the things he has had to do with aplomb and complete assurance.”
He added: “Those sort of things develop more.
“The attention to the simplicity of the job develops while you are out of it.
“You focus on the importance of those things.
“I have noticed his all-round professionalism and his understanding of the role continues to develop and it will only do so more if he keeps going with the national side.
“We all know he is a big monster and he can catch a cross and stop a shot, but it’s the all-round feel of a goalkeeper.
“The best keepers have a calmness and an assured way they go about their business. Edvin van der Sar would come out and fly a pass into midfield and the whole stadium would calm down.
“He would catch a cross through the crowd. That is the beauty of a keeper doing the simple things but doing them fantastically well. And I think Nick is doing fantastically well.”
Pope didn’t have time to think about things when thrust into life in the Premier League by Heaton’s injury - it was sink or swim, and Dyche noted: “Nick got through because of an opportunist moment with the injury to Tom and he just set off.
“He didn’t over think it. He was just going and playing – it was instinctive.
“Now he can think things through, reference different moments, have a better understanding of his own performance, and he is using that wisely.”
While that understanding has developed, Dyche feels his kicking is improving, as shown for a England, when he completed 25 passes in Kosovo, playing from the back in the style Gareth Southgate wants: “Nick is challenging misconceptions. Most goalkeepers now have a strong awareness of using their feet better regardless of what your style of play is.
“It’s a way the game works. And Nick uses his feet better than most people think. But he is enormous. It’s a long way to send a message from his brain down to his feet!
“Most goalkeepers now are super sized. We were chasing a game and Nick went up for a corner and he just looked enormous.
“When you’re in and amongst a crowd of big lads and he was still towering over them, that’s when you realise he is massive. I’m convinced he is still growing!”