Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope is doing everything in his power to play his way in to Gareth Southgate’s thoughts during England’s UEFA European Championship qualifying campaign.
The 27-year-old teamed up with the Three Lions at St George’s Park this week where he’d been working alongside coach Martyn Margetson and the goalkeeping pool, now made up of Jordan Pickford and Dean Henderson, ahead of trips to Prague and Sofia.
The former Charlton Athletic stopper, who kept his third clean sheet of the season in a 1-0 win over Everton at Turf Moor at the weekend, has already won his first international cap when replacing Jack Butland in a 2-0 friendly win over Costa Rica 16 months ago.
But the Clarets’ Player of the Year for 2017/18 wants to mark his second appearance for his country with a run out in a competitive fixture.
“We’ve got two big games coming up now and it would be great to be a part of,” he said. “It’s all about training right and doing the right things day in day out and then hoping that you do get the opportunity when the games come along.
“It would be great [to be selected for a competitive game]. I want to build myself and my own performances to give myself the best opportunity to earn that cap.
“You’re never given one at this level, I’ve earned my first one and now it’s all about making the right steps towards getting that second one. If I do then I need to be in the right place to perform.”
Victory over tonight’s hosts at the Sinobo Stadium in the Czech Republic capital is all that is required for the Group A leaders to secure their spot in the finals of the tournament, which will be staged across 12 countries next summer.
A Raheem Sterling hat-trick, in addition to a Harry Kane penalty and a Tomas Kalas own goal, condemned their rivals to the heaviest defeat in their history at Wembley Stadium in March.
“We’ve got two big games,” said Pope. “We’re looking to qualify and win the group during this camp with two good performances.
“We’ve got a clear aim to go for so if we can come out of that after these two games then we’ll be delighted.
“It would be massive. It’s what you want, it’s what you aim for. You want to be in a position that we’re in and we need to capitalise on that. We need to make the most of it.
“The higher you are and the more points you get the better the seeding you get for the tournament so every game is important.
“We can’t afford to take our foot off the gas so we’ve got to look at these games as two more opportunities to get maximum points.”
Pope, who travelled with the squad to last summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, admits that his involvement in the group is starting to feel more natural.
This is his fourth call up now and certain schedules, routines and personnel are becoming very familiar to him.
He said: “Everyone knows each other more or less from playing against each other on a Saturday so you come in, get in to training and try and hit the ground running. You then get to know the lads that you might not know off the pitch as well. It’s all part of it.
“I think it just becomes more normal when you come in to squads. You already know a few faces, which helps you settle in, then other new faces join.
“You know what it’s like for them - you’ve been in your first squad and your second squad so it’s nice to be around them and help them come in.
“It’s nice to actually come here and know a few people. I was lucky that Tarky was with me the first time and now I’ve been away with the lads to a World Cup for a number of weeks and been involved in other squads so I’ve already built relationships with people. It’s a lot easier rather than it being daunting now.”