Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope has performed stupendously since replacing the injured Tom Heaton in September 2017. The 25-year-old was largely unknown until his goalkeeping heroics this season, but a potential place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup squad could be beckoning if he maintains his supreme form.
To put his season into perspective – Pope has conceded the same amount of goals as Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea and kept the same amount of clean sheets as Arsenal’s Petr Cech. Pope is competing against the very best in the Premier League, which builds a perfect case for why he’s the suitable candidate to take the vacant No. 1 role at the 2018 World Cup.
Tom Heaton reigned dominant between the sticks for Burnley due to his consistent performances over his five-season spell at Turf Moor. However, it’s uncertain whether he’ll regain his starting place once he’s returned to full fitness, which is a positive dilemma for Sean Dyche to digest.
Pope has played a vital role in Burnley’s rampant rise through the rankings in the Premier League this season, and he’s personified a brick wall behind their sturdy defence, containing two defenders fully capable of playing for England in the shape of James Tarkowski and Ben Mee.
The 25-year-old has endured a tumultuous journey to the present time. Pope was unable to break into Championship club Charlton Athletic’s starting line-up and was forced to spend loan spells at six different clubs.
Eventually, Pope was trusted with a regular spot with The Addicks, and attracted the interest of Burnley immediately. He subsidised regular playing time to become Burnley’s second-choice goalkeeper in July 2016, but thrived on the opportunity once it arrived.
Rewind to September 2017, Burnley was leading by one-goal to nil against a struggling Crystal Palace, until tragedy struck just 36 minutes into the encounter. Tom Heaton fell awkwardly and sustained a dislocated shoulder that would leave him out until the present day.
The relatively unknown Nick Pope, rather shocked by his sudden involvement, grabbed his gloves and prepared for battle. Crystal Palace rallied in the final third in a desperate attempt of salvaging a point and also Frank De Boer’s job. However, Pope remained calm and collective to help The Clarets over the line and mark the beginning of a special campaign.
Pope has conceded the joint-second least amount of goals in the Premier League this season, conceding just two more than Premier League leaders Manchester City’s goalkeeper Ederson. Burnley have dropped well out of the race for European qualification, but a top half finish must now be their main priority, and with Pope to guard the net, they can rest assure that their position amongst the top 10 is guaranteed.
Gareth Southgate must also take him to Russia; it’d be a huge mistake to overlook the most in-form English goalkeeper in the Premier League. Joe Hart has declined since the arrival of Pep Guardiola, Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford have been less than convincing and Fraser Forster has been displaced by Alex McCarthy.
Southgate needs to show some bravery and take players based on their form not on their club or reputation. It’s clear that on current form Nick Pope is capable of becoming England’s No. 1 and he could play a pivotal role for Three Lions at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.