Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope has set his sights on becoming England number one but admits it will take time to displace friend and rival Jordan Pickford.
Pope’s dislocated shoulder, mere weeks after earning his sole England cap and being an unused squad member at the 2018 World Cup, largely ensured he did not feature for the Clarets in the Premier League last season.
The 27-year-old has re-established himself as Burnley’s first-choice custodian in the last couple of months and his early-season form has led to call-ups in the last two England squads.
Ahead of linking up with his international team-mates next week for their Euro 2020 qualifying trips to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, Pope admitted becoming Gareth Southgate’s first choice is a major motivation.
“It’s something that I can say now is an aim for me, something to look at, there’s obviously a long way to go,” Pope said.
“We’re seven games into this season, I’ve just come off an injury of six months of last season, so something that’s maybe not in the immediate future but something that longer-term I can think of as being a goal of mine.
“To have that cap was a massive privilege and honour, to be able to do that and be part of the World Cup squad. That’s one dream fulfilled, it’s kind of moving on and setting new targets and new goals.”
Tom Heaton’s departure to Aston Villa over the summer smoothed Pope’s passage at Burnley although the pair are the main challengers to Everton shot-stopper Pickford with England.
Pope, though, insists all three spur each other on, adding: “We get on great as friends and when we do get to catch up, we get on really well. But when training time comes along we really try and push each other to get better.
“That’s the environment for goalkeeping. It’s something you’re used to and built into you as a goalkeeper growing up is that when you train with other goalkeepers, you push each other to the next level.”
The 27-year-old says he is “looking forward to seeing Jordan” ahead of Everton’s trip to Turf Moor this weekend, where Burnley will be without Danny Drinkwater and almost certainly fellow midfielder Jack Cork as well.
Drinkwater is continuing his recovery from an ankle injury while Burnley are reluctant to take any risks with Cork, who suffered a minor fracture to his shoulder blade during the 2-2 draw at Villa last weekend.
Reflecting on his own time on the sidelines, Pope added: “Injuries are the toughest thing about football, watching everyone else training and you’re stuck in the gym or in a room with the physio getting treatment.
“The early weeks when your arm is in a sling and you can’t move, and you’ve got to sleep sitting up, they are the slowest times.
“(Being back playing) is something I can appreciate more having come through it.
“I like to think I appreciated it before but the high of being at the World Cup, coming back and then three days later having the injury – it makes you realise one day everything can be fine and then the next it can be taken away really quickly.
“It’s definitely helped me with that.”
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