NICK POPE is hoping Jordan Pickford’s injury absence will give him an opportunity to stake a claim for a World Cup place in England’s next two matches – and the Newcastle United goalkeeper is determined to make the most of his chance if he is selected to start Friday’s Nations League game in Italy.
Pickford remains firmly established as Gareth Southgate’s first-choice goalkeeper, but the Wearsider is nursing a thigh injury and will miss both Friday’s match in the San Siro and next week’s final Nations League group game against Germany at Wembley.
In his absence, Southgate has selected Pope, Aaron Ramsdale and Dean Henderson, with the trio battling for the two remaining goalkeeping places in the squad the England boss will select for this winter’s World Cup in Qatar.
Having impressed with Newcastle in the opening month-and-a-half of the season, Pope is expected to feature in at least one of this week’s games, and with his last England outing having come back in March, the 30-year-old is determined to do all he can to convince Southgate of his qualities.
“It’s probably more of an opportunity than if he (Pickford) was here,” admitted Pope, who has won eight caps since making his international debut back in the summer of 2018. “He’s been top drawer for England for a number of years now.
“I’ve been in a lot of squads with him, and we always enjoy having him here, we always have a good time, push each other, and have a good laugh as we do it too.
“It’s obviously disappointing for him that he’s not here, and you want to have the strongest squad to pick from, but with him not being here, hopefully it might open the door for myself. If I get the opportunity, it’s then up to me to leave a good impression.”
Pope’s previous caps have been all been won while he was playing with Burnley, but the shot-stopper started a new chapter of his career when he left Turf Moor to join Newcastle in the summer.
Eddie Howe was prepared to allow Martin Dubravka to leave on loan to Manchester United in order to help facilitate Pope’s arrival and cement his status as the Magpies’ number one. In return, Pope is looking to elevate his performances to an even higher level now he is playing for a side who should not be spending the season battling against the drop.
“It feels like a different phase of my career,” he said, in an interview with BBC Sport. “Just the mere fact of time really, I had six years at Burnley, so it’s very much a chapter closing and a new beginning.
“When I went to Newcastle, it felt like in my first day of pre-season, I was proving myself again. You’re in front of a lot of new faces – staff, players, fans – and they’ve maybe not watched you as much as other people.
“You almost feel like you’re on trial again. You want to prove yourself and, for myself, it was about getting into that Newcastle team and being part of a team moving in a good direction.”
Pope has been in excellent form so far this season – his performance in August’s goalless draw at Brighton was a particular stand-out – and he is relishing his new environment on Tyneside.
“It’s been great,” he added. “The fans have taken to me great, and the players and staff have been top drawer with me.
“It’s a move in my career I’ve been really pleased to make. It’s obviously a club that has great ambitions, already has a great set-up, and is really looking to push itself to the next level. It’s something that, as a player, is really exciting to be a part of.”