From non-league to World Cup, Pope dreams of keeping for England

Burton-on-Trent (United Kingdom) (AFP) – There was a time Nick Pope never dreamed he’d be called into the England squad, but now the Burnley goalkeeper is hoping to be his country’s number one at the World Cup.

Pope, 25, has worked his way up through England’s football pyramid, playing in the fifth-tier Conference as recently as four seasons ago.

“It’s a day I never thought I’d see come and now it’s massive elation for me,” Pope said on Tuesday.

“Coming up through the leagues, some cold dark ones…you think the national team is too far away.”

Pope wasn’t even a regular with Burnley until Tom Heaton suffered a dislocated shoulder in September.

However, Pope has been the last line of a Burnley defence that has kept 13 clean sheets this season to sit seventh in the Premier League on a club record 43 points with eight games still remaining.

“I’ve put in some hard yards and proved myself at those levels to get to this level. I don’t think it’s a fluke to get called up to the England squad.”

Once, England could rely upon goalkeepers like Peter Shilton, Gordan Banks and David Seaman at major international tournaments.

However, just three months out from the showpiece in Russia, manager Gareth Southgate has admitted “the number one jersey is up for grabs.”

Long time number one Joe Hart’s place is under threat as he has featured in just one of West Ham’s last 16 Premier League games.

Everton’s Jordan Pickford and Stoke’s Jack Butland also have more Premier League experience than Pope.

But Pope is the man in form. Only Manchester United’s David De Gea, widely regarded as one of the world’s best ‘keepers, has a better save percentage than Pope’s 78 percent this season.

By contrast, Hart is bottom of that list saving just 54 percent of the shots he’s faced.

“Come the summer, there’s got to be one number one. There are eight games left of the Premier League season and it’s every man for himself.

“I want it to be me, it’s a massive honour. To represent your country first of all, and go to a World Cup.”

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