Pope's World Cup place confirmed
As per widespread reports from yesterday, Nick Pope has been selected in the England squad for this summer's World Cup in Russia.
After a breakthrough year in the Premier League between the posts for Burnley, it was believed that the Wicken-raised goalkeeper was jostling for the third and final goalkeeping berth in the 23-man squad with Joe Hart.
The early suggestion was that Hart's previous international tournament experience would win through, but the Journal and Free Press have learned this afternoon that head coach Gareth Southgate has put his faith in Pope.
It has completed an unconventional rise - a story told exclusively to the Journal in March - for the 26-year-old, who played for Team Bury and Bury Town in the Thurlow Nunn and Isthmian Leagues respectively following his release by Ipswich Town as a youngster.
His potential was spotted by Charlton Athletic and after several loan spells he moved on to Burnley, for whom he made his top-flight debut in September.
Since then he has become one of the division's best goalkeepers, keeping 11 clean sheets and having a save-to-shot ratio in excess of 75 per cent.
Pope's inclusion was given the thumbs up by former England defender Rio Ferdinand yesterday, who said at a BBC World Cup launch event: "What is Joe Hart going to learn from going to this World Cup? He has been to a World Cup before, he has played tournament football before. What is Gareth Southgate going to learn about him?
"I went to the World Cup in ’98, did not play one minute of football, but it was a great learning curve for me.
"When I went to the next World Cup and played in 2002, I didn’t have anything I needed to learn, I wasn’t apprehensive about things. I’d already seen what the best methods were.
"Taking a young kid to go there and experience that I think is a much better way to go."
England will prepare for the World Cup with two warm-up friendlies, the first of which pits them against Nigeria at Wembley on Saturday, June 2 (5.15pm).
That is followed by an encounter with Costa Rica on June 7, to be played at Leeds United’s Elland Road (8pm).
The Three Lions will then play their group opener against Tunisia on Monday, June 18 in the Volgograd Arena.
There other group opponents are Panama (June 24) and Belgium (June 28).
ENGLAND'S WORLD CUP SQUAD: Alexander-Arnold, Butland, Cahill, Dele, Delph, Dier, Henderson, Jones, Kane, Lingard, Loftus-Cheek, Maguire, Pickford, Pope, Rashford, Rose, Sterling, Stones, Trippier, Vardy, Walker, Welbeck, Young