By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - England manager Gareth Southgate has opted for Nick Pope as his starting goalkeeper for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Poland.
The Burnley keeper started Thursday's 5-0 win over San Marino at Wembley and in the absence of the injured Jordan Pickford has been given the number one shirt for Sunday's match in Tirana and the Wembley encounter with the Poles on Wednesday.
Pope was one of the two back-ups to Pickford at the 2018 World Cup, but despite his excellent form in the Premier League and Pickford having some difficult spells, has been restricted to just five appearances for his country.
"He has been really patient for his opportunity and has performed consistently at a high level every week for his club and has been with us for a very long time waiting for this moment," said Southgate, confirming the 28-year-old's starting role.
Pope had little to do against San Marino but will hope he can now make a strong case to keep the first choice spot.
"He is a very calm character and I really like his personality," said Southgate.
"We obviously knew he was not going to be overworked (against San Marino) but I am sure that will be different in the next games," he added.
Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw is another player looking to make the most of his opportunity to shine ahead of June's European Championship.
Chelsea's Ben Chilwell started against San Marino but Shaw, who has not played for England since 2018 but has been in strong form with United, could start against Albania.
"There has never been any doubt in our mind of his quality. He has obviously suffered from injuries but it has been great to see him playing on the front foot as a full-back, both with and without the ball," said Southgate.
"He looks physically like he is in good condition to be able to drive forward. He has excellent quality with the ball. It is a good moment for him."
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson)