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In the 2015 winter transfer window, Nick Pope was sent on the 8th loan of his young career, to League Two Bury.
Bury were aiming for promotion that season, and the arrival of Pope was the final piece of the jigsaw, that enabled the Shakers to get into the automatic promotion places. Following a dramatic win on the final day, the North West club went up to League One.
Fast Forward three years, the now Burnley keeper has not only established himself in the Premier League, but is on the cusp of becoming a surprise member of England’s World Cup squad. Pope has recently received his first call up to the England squad for the upcoming friendlies with the Netherlands and Italy.
And with the goalkeeper spot being the most open position in the starting XI, Pope has a genuine chance of getting the number one jersey in Russia.
After all, out of all the contenders Pope has conceded the least Premier League goals and sits highest in the league. But perhaps most important is that Pope is the only keeper who can genuinely claim to be in good form, as all of Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Fraser Forster and Joe Hart have all struggled in patches during this season.
Despite his lack of experience, does Gareth Southgate go for the player who plays for the less fashionable club but is in the best form, or one of the players who play for a perceived bigger club, but have not performed as well?
The rise of Pope is one few would have seen coming, he started the season as back up to Tom Heaton at Burnley, but after an injury to Heaton, Pope was given a chance and he definitely took it with both gloves. 27 games, 22 goals conceded and 11 clean sheets highlight how brilliant Pope has been, few players have taken to Premier League football so seamlessly.
Many pundits will say he’s too inexperienced to start at the World Cup, but if Gareth Southgate wants to hold true to his claims that he’ll pick players on form, there can be no debate who gets the number one jersey.