Pope feeling better for time away

Nick Pope has put pen to paper on a four-year contract with Burnley - ending any speculation over a Turf Moor exit this summer.

Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope believes he has improved as a result of his lengthy spell on the sidelines.

The 27-year-old looked to have the world at his feet 13 months ago after being part of England’s 2018 World Cup squad, and it appeared Sean Dyche was planning to keep him as his number one after a stunning 2017-18 campaign.

Pope got his chance after Tom Heaton damaged his shoulder in September 2017 although he too suffered a shoulder injury when colliding with Aberdeen’s Sam Cosgrove last July.

That issue not only forced him out of the game at Pittodrie but also the first half of last season, with summer arrival Joe Hart taking the gloves.

Heaton regained his spot at Christmas, with he and Hart playing 19 games apiece in the league, and Pope had to settle for a place either on the bench or outside the matchday squad.

A couple of FA Cup appearances were all he could muster in the second half of last term but he received a boost earlier this month when handed the number one shirt following Heaton’s departure to Aston Villa.

Pope got the nod in Saturday’s season opener against Southampton, keeping a clean sheet in a 3-0 win.

Ashley Barnes was the hero for the Clarets, netting twice in the second half before Johann Berg Gudmundsson completed the scoring.

All three goals came after the break and Pope had excelled before his side broke the deadlock, making a handful of decent saves and exuding an air of authority around his box.

Next up for Burnley is Saturday’s trip to Arsenal before they head to Wolves on August 24 and then welcome Liverpool on the final day of the month.

After such a long spell out of the team, the goalkeeper admits he had some tough times on the sidelines. However, he feels the time away allowed him to study his trade and come back stronger.

He is quoted as saying by the Lancashire Telegraph: “It gave me time to reflect and that was a big part of my recovery and rehab – looking at how I can become a better player when I do come back.

“That light at the end of the tunnel, you’ve got to strive to play Premier League football again. I just had to look after myself and make sure I was in the best position I could be in.”