Time is certainly a healer and Nick Pope’s return to the England set-up is a reminder of just how far he’s come in 12 months.
At this stage last season the Burnley goalkeeper’s career had been put on hold. Pope required a sling to support his left arm after a collision with team-mate James Tarkowski in the Europa League tie against Aberdeen at Pittodrie inflicted a dislocated shoulder.
The 27-year-old, replaced by Anders Lindegaard in the 14th minute in north east Scotland, was sidelined for just over five months having spent the summer with the Three Lions at the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.
He’s made just six starts since, four of those in the Premier League this season, but he’s been recalled to Gareth Southgate’s 25-man squad alongside former Clarets skipper Tom Heaton and Everton’s Jordan Pickford.
Speaking exclusively to the Burnley Express at St George’s Park, he said: “I’m delighted, it’s a dream to be involved in any England squad. I was lucky to have a bit of it before and I’m delighted to be back in straight from injury.
“It’s great and good to see some of the lads again, see some new faces. It’s always a great environment to come and work so I’ve enjoyed it.
“I’m bedding myself in to a new group and new surroundings. It’s the first time I’ve been here in a long while so it was a steady start, but we’ve got a couple of big games coming up.”
“I didn’t really expect anything when the squad was set to be announced, I tried to stay level headed and be easy with whatever the outcome was. I was delighted to be included.
“It’s been a long road. This time last year I was in a sling so to be here now, to start the season and get some points on the board, it’s been a nice start all round.”
The ultimate goal for Pope, who signed a new and improved deal at Turf Moor in May, keeping him at the club until 2023 with the option of a further 12 months, is to win his second cap for his country before establishing himself on the international stage.
But he won’t run before he can walk. The former Charlton Athletic stopper, who was Burnley’s Player of the Year in 2017/18, will continue fine-tuning his ability with Billy Mercer at the Barnfield Training Centre as well as England goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson.
Pope believes the two coaching styles go hand-in-hand and will aid his development going forward.
“I’ve just got to see how this week goes first, he said. “I’ve not been in these surroundings for a long time so he [Southgate] has not really been able to see much of me.
“We’ll just have to see how we go, there’s a few international breaks before Christmas so there’s plenty of time.
“If I wasn’t here I’d be training at Burnley so the workload is similar in that regard. I’m not really missing out on anything. It’s another working week, it’s a great place to come to learn.
“I’m working with those two and the players as well. We’ve got great intensity levels at Burnley with the way we train, from being with the goalkeepers to when we go out with the team.
“You come here and you’re working with world class players day in day out. That can only make you better.”
Pope, who made his debut as a 65th-minute substitute in a 2-0 friendly win over Costa Rica at Elland Road, was reunited with Heaton at the FA’s national football centre in Staffordshire where, once again, they’ll battle it out for the number one spot.
The pair will likely be named among the substitutes for Saturday’s UEFA European Championship Group A qualifying tie against Bulgaria at Wembley Stadium, though Southgate may opt to make changes for Tuesday’s game against Kosovo at St Mary’s.
“I spoke to him before when the squad was announced so it was nice to catch up again,” said Pope. “It’s not been long since he left, but it’s been nice to have a quick catch up.
“He’s started well at Villa so I’m really pleased for him. He’s a friend as well as a competitor, which we’ve been over the last few years. We also get along off the pitch so it’s always nice to see him do well.
“We want to top this group and take that form in to the next tournament. That’s got to be our aim from here on out.
“It’s a long way off now, we’ve got a full Premier League season to play before then, but a long term goal of mine is to be in that squad.
“There are still many games to play for Burnley and England before then so I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.”