25 year old keeper Nick Pope is returning to Lancashire after a whirlwind 6 months that has seen him replace an injured Tom Heaton at Burnley before picking up 10 clean sheets and being called up to his first ever senior England camp.
Whilst his incredible year stopped short at making it on to the pitch in either of the friendlies against Holland or Italy, Pope seems to have relished the opportunity.
“It’s a great environment to be in and it’s been a massive learning curve for me”
“I found out more about myself and I think I’ve improved over the last 10 days. I’ve learned a lot so it’s all pluses, all positives.”
Pope also believes he is returning to Turf Moor a better keeper following his experience with the England team.
“I feel that I’ve learned a lot over the last few weeks.”
“I’ve trained with three top goalkeepers and 24 top players as well. If you can’t learn from that then what can you learn from?”
Clearly Pope has benefited heavily from Heaton being sidelined since September 17 with a shoulder injury, but having recovered from surgery on his shoulder and come through 3 games for the u23 side Heaton is looking to challenge for his place in the Burnley and England squad as the season comes to a close.
It will be interesting to see what opportunities Pope gets as the season comes towards an end and should Heaton – who is Burnley’s club captain – return as the number 1 keeper whether Pope remains at Turf Moor next season.
For now though, Pope is hoping that the competition will inspire both himself and Heaton to continue to improve.
“We’ve got two players in every position at Burnley that are top drawer. It’ll be a fight from now until the end of the season”
“Competition is what’s best for the team. We’re all pulling in the same direction. That’s what is great about our squad and that’s what has helped us get to where we are now.”
It seems unlikely, given that Pope didn’t pick up any minutes in the international break for him to make the plane to Russia this summer, but it looks like he may have a future at that level as his experience grows – if he can keep up his current levels of performance.