Southgate explains Pope’s England inclusion

RAPID RISE: Nick Pope, pictured playing in his Bury Town days
RAPID RISE: Nick Pope, pictured playing in his Bury Town days

England manager Gareth Southgate has revealed he called Nick Pope up to his latest squad because he needs to get to know more about the former Bury Town goalkeeper.

We revealed earlier that the 25-year-old was set to feature among Southgate’s selection for the upcoming friendlies with Holland (March 23) and Italy (March 27) — something that has now been confirmed.

Pope has been in top form for Burnley this season, keeping 10 clean sheets, which is more than any other English goalkeeper in the Premier League.

The Wicken-raised shot stopper is one of four ‘keepers to have been picked by Southgate, with the more experienced Joe Hart, Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford also featuring in the squad of 27 players.

However, with a World Cup to come in the summer, Southgate is eager to see what the ex-West Suffolk College student can add to the squad.

“With Nick his form has been excellent,” he told reporters.

“Nick is not a player we have worked with — our other three goalkeepers have huge experience either at senior international level or junior international level.

“We need to find out a bit more about Nick because if we lose one of our more senior goalkeepers we do not want to be bringing in a new player at the end of the season. His form justifies coming into that mix.”