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Pope dreaming of a World Cup place

Nick Pope at St George's
Nick Pope at St George's
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Nick Pope thought he would never play for England - but is now hoping to do so at this summer's World Cup.

The Burnley goalkeeper has been rewarded for an impressive season at Turf Moor with a place in Gareth Southgate's squad for England's upcoming friendlies against Holland and Italy.

And with no clear first-choice keeper just three months before the World Cup in Russia, the 25-year-old has a strong chance to stake a claim.

"It's obviously a day I never thought I'd see come and, now it has, it's massive elation for me and everyone close to me," Pope said at a press conference.

"There's got to be one number one. I want it to be me, who wouldn't? It's a massive honour.

"You've got to be hungry in football and you've got to be greedy as well. It's a new challenge and a challenge I want to take on."

Pope has taken a circuitous route to brink of an international cap via spells at Charlton, Welling, Cambridge, Aldershot, York and Bury.

He was then second choice at Burnley until injury to Tom Heaton, another on the fringes of international selection, saw him thrust into Premier League action earlier this season.

Pope said: "I've played in some cold, dark leagues. It's a level - this national team - that you think is too far away almost.

"I feel like I've put in some hard yards and proven myself at those levels to try and get to this level. I don't think it's a fluke to get called up to the England squad."

Pope did spare a thought for Heaton, who has much to do to force his way back into contention after six months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.

He said: "The last six months are something I couldn't have foreseen happening. Obviously Tom going down was an opportunity for me and something that has blossomed into an England call-up.

"I've worked with (Heaton) for a year-and-a-half now. He's been massively supportive ever since I walked through the door (at Burnley).

"It can't be easy for him. Being injured is probably one of the hardest things in football. He's a top guy, and it has shone through."

Pope's career to date has taught him he cannot afford to rest on his laurels.

He said: "In football things change so quickly and things are rarely set in stone. I'm not taking anything for granted at club level, let alone for England."