This article forms part of our Profit Players feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at how well a player has fared since being signed or sold, using statistical figures and statements from pundits to prove how good of a deal the club managed to achieve.
If patience is a virtue, then they don’t come much more virtuous than Nick Pope. The goalkeeper was loaned out by Charlton no fewer than seven times in four years before finally getting a prolonged run in the first team during the 2015/16 season. The Addicks were relegated from the Championship at the end of that campaign and Pope duly left the division…except he went the other way, joining up with newly-promoted Burnley in the Premier League (as per BBC).
Sean Dyche snapped up the ‘keeper for a mere £1.17m (as per TransferMarkt) and, having only had a half-season as Charlton’s first choice, he was again left to rely on piecemeal snippets of domestic cup action in his first year at Turf Moor, with Tom Heaton the go-to netminder for league games. Pope managed just four appearances in the 2016/17 campaign, all in the EFL Cup or FA Cup.
However, when Heaton got injured in the early weeks of the following season, the ex-Addicks goalkeeper found himself thrust into action and enjoyed an “excellent” full Premier League debut in a 1-1 draw away to Liverpool. He kept his place for the rest of the campaign and was beaten just 35 times in as many league games, achieving 12 clean sheets as the Clarets finished seventh to qualify for Europe.
Pope’s performances earned him a place in England’s 2018 World Cup squad and an international debut against Costa Rica just before the tournament. He was part of the squad that went on to reach the semi-finals, although he didn’t feature during the finals in Russia, with Jordan Pickford getting the nod from Gareth Southgate.
Unfortunately, just as long-term injury struck Heaton in 2017, the same fate befell Pope the following year. He dislocated his shoulder in Burnley’s first Europa League qualifier against Aberdeen and was ruled out for nearly six months, in the end playing only three matches all season as Dyche resorted to bringing in Joe Hart.
Pope’s rollercoaster career took another upward turn, though, after Heaton departed for Aston Villa last summer. The Soham native reclaimed his status as Burnley’s number one goalkeeper and he has thrived for the Clarets this season, playing in all of their Premier League games and keeping a league-high 14 clean sheets. He is also in the top four goalkeepers in the division this term for saves made, proving to be an imposing last line of defence for Dyche’s team.
He was outstanding in last week’s draw at Anfield, the venue where his Clarets career took flight back in 2017, making no fewer than eight saves to end Liverpool’s perfect home record in this season’s Premier League.
Will Nick Pope be England's first-choice goalkeeper at the Euros next year?
Rachel Brown-Finnis, a long-serving goalkeeper for the England women’s team, said on BT Sport [via Lancashire Live] after the game that the 28-year-old is the best English shot-stopper in the top flight and should be his country’s number one at the European Championship next year instead of Pickford.
On current form, it’s hard to disagree with her. Pope has had peaks and troughs during his Burnley career but, with the distinct possibility of him being Southgate’s go-to goalkeeper next summer, the £1.17m that the Clarets paid for him four years ago now looks like chickenfeed.
Burnley fans, just how good a signing has Pope proven to be? Comment below with your views!
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