Pope after Pickford’s England role

Burnley

Nick Pope appears to have won the battle to be Burnley's No.1 and he may also eventually become England's first-choice goalkeeper.

Pope was selected in goal for the Clarets at the start of the season as boss Sean Dyche opted for the 27-year-old ahead of former Manchester City and England star Joe Hart, who has had to settle for a place on the bench.

It’s been a much better first month to the season compared to 12 months previously for Pope, who suffered a serious shoulder injury in Burnley’s Europa League qualifier at Aberdeen at the end of July 2018. It kept him out for a lengthy period and he had to watch on as first Hart and then Tom Heaton took up the duties between the sticks at Turf Moor.

The injury was a big setback in Pope’s career as he had been part of the England squad that made it all the way to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and was being tipped to become a key man for Gareth Southgate at international level.

Pope made his England debut when he appeared in a World Cup warm-up game against Costa Rica but the subsequent injury put paid to any further games for the Three Lions. However, he is back in the squad for the current international break and was an unused sub in Saturday’s 4-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Bulgaria at Wembley.

Pope looks like he’s going to have to bide his time as he waits patiently behind Everton’s Jordan Pickford in the pecking order for England, but he has plenty of admirers and there is a sneaking suspicion among some seasoned observers that he is actually the better keeper.

Pope has kept a fairly impressive 19 clean sheets in 49 games in total for the Clarets, a 39 per cent success rate, and doesn’t seem to be the sort of keeper who is on the verge of making a big error leading to a soft goal, but that will always be an occupational hazard.

Pickford’s clean sheet record for Everton is 28 from 91 games, down on Pope’s stats at roughly a 31 per cent shut-out success rate, and even though the former Sunderland man impressed in Russia last summer, the feeling is that he’s yet to establish himself as the out-and-out No.1 for his country for years to come.

If it wasn’t for his injury, Pope would probably have had more chances for the Three Lions and he will surely get them if he stays fit ahead of next summer’s European Championship.

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