Nick Pope admits the England number one jersey is a target for him ahead of next year’s European Championship finals.
The Burnley keeper won his first full cap for his country against Kosovo last month, with Gareth Southgate choosing to rest Jordan Pickford after England secured qualification.
Pope has returned to the Burnley side this season after missing nearly all of the last campaign with a serious shoulder injury and he has picked up where he left off from his first season in 2017-18, which earned him a place in England’s World Cup squad.
Asked about trying to overhaul Pickford, Pope said: “It’s possible. It’s a target but it’s a long way away, there’s so much that can happen until then. If I put too much energy into thinking about that, it’s taking your eye off the ball.
“I’m still very new, five or six squads, two caps, so it’s still the very early stages of building an England career, if we can call it that.”
Having helped Burnley to reach the Europa League, Pope sustained his shoulder injury in their first match in the competition in July 2018 and only played twice more last season.
A full debut for England only a few months into his return therefore understandably felt like a huge achievement.
“It was amazing,” he said. “A year ago today that felt so far away so to come back and, first of all just be in squad, that was a massive boost.
“Really a confirmation of how well the season started and for all the hard work that had been put in the previous year. And to finish the three international breaks with a full England cap, I was over the moon with that.”
Pope has started every Burnley Premier League game this season, keeping six clean sheets and earning plaudits for his all-round performances.
“I think I’m getting there,” he said. “I’m always improving, I don’t want to think I’m the finished article. I wasn’t the first year in the Premier League, I certainly won’t be now and I won’t be next year.
“We’re in a good place, the team’s started well and we’ve built a foundation for the season but that’s all it is so far so a lot of how the season goes depends on these next few weeks.”
Pope’s excellence played a significant part in Burnley allowing Tom Heaton to join Aston Villa in the summer.
The pair are still in touch, while Pope was full of praise for Joe Hart, who he is keeping on the bench at Turf Moor.
The former Charlton keeper said: “Joe’s someone who’s obviously done a lot more in the game than I will ever do – England, international, Champions League.
“His CV is incredible, so to have someone like that and to be the person that he is to help me out rather than see me as a direct rival and be acidic or toxic around me, he’s totally the opposite. We get on really well on and off the pitch, so to have someone like that is amazing.”
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