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Nick Pope


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Guest reefatoon
Just now, Menace said:

He's a good keeper, I think people just want to be "wowed" tbh. Will go into the Burn/Targett category.


Think the takeover has melted a fair few brain cells in our support. Some reactions so far this summer have been fucking insane.

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Just now, AJ9 said:

Improves us, so is a good signing for that fee. 



Really think there's little more to it than that. It's never really looked like we'd make a massive, guaranteed upgrade in the goalie department the summer so just 'an improvement' is the next best thing. 

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Dubs needs competition. I think a lot of us would rather a clear upgrade, or a younger keeper with room to improve. 


Not against this signing, but I just wish we could swap Wood for him rather than spend £10 million. Would be a win win [emoji38]

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3 minutes ago, Jackie Broon said:


Because he has a reputation of his distribution being shit, which is maybe a bit of a myth:



Hmmm, I appreciate the point that article is trying to make, but if you watch him your eyes tell you he simply isn’t as comfortable with the ball at his feet in comparison to most PL keepers.

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The long term goal is almost certainly to sign a keeper with decent distribution, but at present, it isn't a massive priority and we need competition if we're flogging Darlow and Woodman. It'd be a no thrills buy at a decent price.

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Guest HTT II
Just now, LV said:

There was no Pope in the Bible.


And only Jesus saves 

I’ve not read it, maybe I need to cross it off on my list of books to read!

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Guest HTT II
Just now, JonBez comesock said:

It’s the ‘pope’ that kills you 

That’s before he nonces you…

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Would have to think he's competing with Henderson (assuming he goes to Forest) for the 3rd goalkeeper spot at the World Cup so he'll be wanting to come here and play. If he stayed at Burnley and was playing every week you would think he would still have a good chance at being in the squad.

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12 minutes ago, Dokko said:

Same people whinging about pope were no doubt whinging about burn and targett. 


Lessons still not learned. 


Nah. I was one of the only posters on here who rated Burn, even months before we were linked with him.


I just don't think Pope's that good. He's better than Darlow, but I don't think he's any better than Dubs. Time will tell as to who is number one though.

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23 minutes ago, Sean said:

Dubs needs competition. I think a lot of us would rather a clear upgrade, or a younger keeper with room to improve. 


Not against this signing, but I just wish we could swap Wood for him rather than spend £10 million. Would be a win win [emoji38]

:lol: There is no way anyone thinks Wood is worth £10m now. Maybe £10.

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Lobbed from kick-off and terrible at kicking. Now Pope is one of England’s best


Nick Pope walked out for his first training session on trial at Charlton Athletic. Goalkeeping coach Ben Roberts was already on the pitch. He observed a few raised eyebrows.


“At first, when he walked out in his gear, Robbie Elliot, our first-team goalkeeper looked at me. It looked like he had a pair of gardening gloves on,” chuckles Roberts speaking to The Athletic. “I joke with Nick now that I didn’t know if the raised eyebrows were because of his haircut or his gloves.”


Pope was 19. This was a huge step up from the Ryman Premier Division, where he played for Bury Town. This was his opportunity.


“I remember immediately, on his trial, when we were doing very basic handling, Robbie looked at me again, wide-eyed, as if to say ‘oh’ and you could tell from people’s reactions there was a sense that we could have something here,” recalls Roberts.


“Over the course of the week, the feedback off everybody was good. What we were seeing with our eyes and what we were hearing about his personality; there were a lot of plus points.”


By the end of the week, Roberts invited Pope’s parents, David and Bridget, to the training ground and a deal was agreed. £100 a week and funding from the PFA to study Sports Science at the University of Roehampton, a degree Pope had planned to take at the University of Nottingham.


Plans had changed. Pope had become a professional footballer.


“Every time I turned my back, he would be getting somebody to cross the ball in and try to overhead kick, and normally miss.”


Richard Wilkins chuckles as he recalls Pope’s training ground habit. Wilkins was Bury Town’s manager during Pope’s time at the club between 2008 and 2011. “He was always the last off the training ground but not because he was doing anything goalkeeping-wise. He was doing those overhead kicks or some flashy headers.


“He’s injured a few people in the process. I think there were a few cut heads when he was doing them because, if you are 6ft whatever, that is quite an area where people are in danger.


“I can remember him going up for a corner in an under-18 game, a cup match, and wiping out one of our players. Elliot Hunter, it was. He was out for a long time.”


As a youngster, Pope was part of Ipswich’s academy. He was a season ticket holder. Richard Wright was his idol. At 16 though, he was released. He was determined to continue pursuing football whilst furthering his education. He joined West Suffolk College, studying business marketing and a sports science diploma during his three years there. He also spent a period of time working a milkman in his hometown of Soham, with shifts beginning at 4am.


The college football team was managed by Wilkins. The school had a strong link with Bury Town and Pope began to play for the under-18 and reserve sides. “He was a big lad and seemed to make saves which were unorthodox but he would get some part of his body in the way, which he still does now,” says Wilkins.


Wilkins himself had been released by Ipswich at 16 but went on to play league football. Pope was “raw” and went through some early learning experiences, including being lobbed from kick-off in a college game.


“You feel like your world has caved in but my dad always said to me that there’s always people watching, so keep pushing. I used to tell him to keep working hard,” says Wilkins. “In that game, we had a bit of fun about it afterwards but he wasn’t too happy about it — he loves keeping clean sheets.”


One area Wilkins worked tirelessly with Pope on was his kicking, shortening his run-up and getting him to lean back and relax when striking the ball. Soon, Pope was clearing the halfway line by a distance.


“He is the sort of lad who listened,” says Wilkins.


“You couldn’t meet a nicer lad either; very grounded. He always had a smile on his face, had a good sense of humour. He was a bit shy but he could give and take the banter.”


In his final six months, Pope was beginning to push on. It prompted Wilkins to make a phone call to Charlton’s chief scout Phil Chapple, who played with Wilkins at Cambridge.


Chapple arranged to watch Pope play in a game against Billericay Town. He wasn’t a regular starter, so Wilkins had to have a difficult conversation with first-team goalkeeper Marcus Garnham to explain.


Billericay were a direct team which would suit Pope’s positive goalkeeping style. Bury won 2-1 and Pope played well. Chapple spoke to Roberts and it was arranged that he would go down to watch Pope a few weeks later against Cray Wanderers.


Roberts sat right behind Pope’s goal and early on, it looked like it could have been a wasted trip. Pope left his area to sweep up and was clattered heading the ball away. He played on.


“He had long shaggy hair but he played on with a bandage on his head. He was brave to do it and that coincided with the initial feedback we had. We saw that two weeks later in training when people were smashing balls at him from point-blank range,” says Roberts.


“There was something about him that I liked but he was incredibly raw. His movement patterns were very rigid. He had a lot to like physically with his size but he was skinny. His kicking was poor at best. We took Nick knowing he had attributes but there was a lot of work to be done.


It didn’t take long for Pope to impress. He would stick around the training ground with his iPod in, doing weights. He would constantly want more information, doing double what he was told he needed to do. He moved into digs near the training ground. Every Monday and Thursday, he would leave training for university. The two sports science staff, Laurence Bloom and Jared Roberts-Smith, helped him with his studies.

“From day one, he was brilliant and a breath of fresh air. He was very popular immediately in a quiet and respectful way,” says Roberts-Smith.


There were loan spells with Harrow Borough, Welling and Cambridge. He moved up the leagues, developing and being rewarded with new contracts. Roberts reflects on the joy of seeing the smiles on Pope and his parents faces as each new deal was signed.


Roberts spoke to Pope after every game when he was out on loan and him and Chapple watched him when they could. “He was gaining understanding of the pressure environment, working under different managers and tactically,” says Roberts.


His next loan, to Aldershot at the start of the 2013-14 season, proved to be a blessing in disguise. The initial idea was for Pope to go to a Football League club but no offers arrived. Aldershot, who were in the Conference, rang.


“He told me he didn’t want to go because he wanted to play league football,” says Roberts. “I said to him that nobody else had rang, so I thought he needed to go. He said he wasn’t going and that he was better than the Conference.”


Roberts told Pope he was going and told first-team goalkeeper Ben Hamer to have a word. After a warm-up jog around the pitch, Pope agreed to go.


“He went to Aldershot begrudgingly and by his very, very high standards it was probably his worst loan. He wasn’t poor but he had set his standards so high,” admits Roberts.



“He came back after his month and I could see he had his tail between his legs. His motivation though was bang on and then he went to York.”


In November 2013, York had lost first-choice goalkeeper Michael Ingham to injury. Andy Collett, the goalkeeper coach, knew Roberts from the time they spent together at Middlesbrough so rang him up for recommendations.


Roberts told Collett about Pope. He detailed his backstory and his attributes — a good personality, physically big, very raw but he could deal with League Two football. Collett needed a goalkeeper immediately, trusted Robert’s opinion and an initial one-month loan deal was sorted without Collett seeing Pope play. He got exactly what he was told.


Pope was thrown straight into action. He had just one training session with his new team-mates and started the following day against Southend. “I spoke to him about it recently,” says Collett, who visited Burnley at the end of December. “He told me that pre-match, before Southend, was the most nervous he has ever been. He couldn’t eat his food.”


It was a short-lived spell initially, with Pope playing only once more before being recalled to Charlton due to an injury to Hamer. Collett kept in contact with Roberts and when Pope became available again, he returned to York in January 2014 until the end of the season.


Pope threw himself into loan life, staying in a B&B. “He was 100 per cent a York City player; not somebody who had come in on loan to play a few games. He fitted in perfectly and was outstanding,” explains Collett.


Learning was still ongoing. He worked for “hours on end” with Collett on his distribution. York had put together a run of seven consecutive clean sheets as they pushed for a play-off place. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Pope made a mistake against Accrington in the dying moments which cost York three points, misjudging a corner. In the changing rooms afterwards, he was devastated.


“The manager, Nigel Worthington came in and said, ‘Oi, you forget about that. You have been unbelievable for me’ which he had,” recalls Collett. “It was about encouraging him to learn from mistakes. It was a case of saying keep coming for the ball and don’t let it play on your mind.”


Collect suddenly laughs and recalls another learning moment for Pope. In his first game back, away against Morecambe, Collett had made Pope aware of Morecambe’s threat from long throw-ins.


“The player runs up and goes to take the throw. Nick literally sets off to come for it before it had left his hands. It went sailing over his head and out past the far post,” Collett laughs.


“He got away with it! I pulled Nick at half-time and said to him that next time there is a long throw, wait until it has left his hands before you set off. He started laughing!”


Pope’s parents followed his career religiously, travelling up by train to watch him at York as the goalkeeper’s performances helped them reach the play-offs, where they were beaten 1-0 in the semi-finals by Fleetwood.

“His mum used to have a bright white North Face coat and you could spot her wherever we went,” says Collett with a chuckle. “They are fantastically supportive.”


Pope made his Charlton debut as a substitute for David Button in May 2013 but it was the season following his return from York (2014-15) when Roberts thought he should be challenging for the first team.

Chris Powell had been sacked as Charlton manager and he thought highly of Pope. He was replaced by Bob Peeters and Pope had to prove himself again. Roberts references a mistake against Derby County in front of his home crowd at The Valley early in the season and there were a few questions being asked.


Against Blackburn in December 2014, Charlton conceded twice in the first half. There was a feeling amongst some of the coaching staff that Pope had been at fault for both goals.


“Walking into the dressing room at half-time, Peeters said he was bringing him off and I said to him that if he did, I would leave (the stadium) now,” recalls Roberts.


“It was that heated. He was not to blame for the two goals. You would kill a young kid and his career. He was learning his trade and progressing nicely, and there was a need to understand what a development goalkeeper looked like. The kid had done well. I respect any manager I work under massively but on that occasion, I thought it was wrong. He kept him on and Popey was superb in the second half.”


Roberts decided to pull Pope out of the firing line though and it meant another loan, this time to Bury until the end of the season. He impressed again.


Roberts departed Charlton at the end of the 2014-15 season, moving to Brighton where he still is goalkeeping coach. The following season was Pope’s last at Charlton. He made 24 appearances as the Addicks were relegated from the Championship. He played in the final game of the season against Burnley, with Sean Dyche’s side clinching the title in a 3-0 win.


Interest came from Burnley that summer and Pope discussed the move with Roberts, who he still speaks to regularly although the conversation usually revolves around life instead of football.


“I thought Burnley was the right move and I told him that,” says Roberts. “I know Billy Mercer (Burnley’s goalkeeping coach) and he is a good guy and Sean is an honest manager. It has been great to see where he has got to.”


The move to Burnley has turned out to be the right one. After serving as Tom Heaton’s deputy in his first season, Pope got his chance when the now Aston Villa keeper broke his collarbone, handing Pope his Premier League debut against Crystal Palace towards the beginning of the 2017-18 season. Collett text him after the game to congratulate him — “Liverpool next,” was the reply from Pope.

Injury ruined his 2018-19 campaign but with Heaton gone, Pope has established himself as Burnley’s No 1 this season, currently topping the Premier League Golden Glove standings with 11 clean sheets. He made his competitive debut for England in November in a 4-0 win in Kosovo. Some are saying he has a strong chance of displacing Jordan Pickford as Gareth Southgate’s No 1. The possibilities certainly seem endless.


Whereas before he was delivering milk at 4am, he’s now delivering clean sheets on Saturday afternoons.


Seems a good egg, based on this.

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