Connect with us

Football

Nick Pope – From League Two to Russia as Englands most in form keeper?

Published

on

Some pretty daft things are said in the wake of a team winning promotion. Players who, in the depths of winter, you were berating for not being able to pass a ball two yards are suddenly going to be providing the names of your first born. You claim that you believed in the team all along, when in reality, after a home defeat by Dagenham & Redbridge, you had sworn never to go again. Most stupidly of all however, you claim that your young loanee goalkeeper will go to the next World Cup. Or at least that’s what I did after Bury’s promotion on the last day of the 2014/15 season. While little Thomas Daniel has yet to show his face, the latter statement may actually come true as Gareth Southgate takes a look at Burnley’s Nick Pope in his latest England squad.

Nick joined Bury in January 2015, on loan from Charlton Athletic. Our promotion campaign wasn’t running particularly smoothly. The day before Pope’s debut we sat 9th in League Two, two points outside the play off places and nine points off the automatic promotion places. We’d lost nine games, shipped as many goals as Tranmere, who went on to be relegated and the aforementioned Dagenham & Redbridge had managed to do the double over us as they fought at the wrong end of the table. Three goalkeepers had already worn the ‘keeper’s jersey before Pope. Shwan Jalal, Rob Lainton and Scott Loach had tried and failed to provide the solid goalkeeper David Flitcroft was looking for.

Pope’s debut was a pretty forgettable home draw against Wycombe Wanderers. He conceded a goal, which was to be rarity during Nick’s time with Bury. In the following 21 games, Pope conceded only nine goals, won fifteen games and lost only four. Pope exuded a calmness rarely sighted in the fourth tier of English football, instilling a new confidence in a defence which had underperformed for most the season. Come the final day of the season, Bury needed to win to be promoted. Away at Tranmere, who had already been relegated, the nerves showed. Pope was called upon to make crucial saves to keep the scores level. In the 61st minute however, Tom Soares wrote himself into Bury folklore and at the end of game, Bury found themselves in League One.

The following season, Pope was back with parent club Charlton. He began and ended the season as Charlton’s first choice goalkeeper, not playing all the games as Charlton preferred Stephen Henderson through the middle part of the season. This season was to be one of disappointment however, as Charlton were relegated to League One. Rather than drop down to League One with Charlton, Pope’s career took a different path. The winners of the Championship, Burnley, decided to take Nick onto the Premier League, signing him on a three year deal in July 2016. Pope played only cup matches in his first season with the Clarets. Even when Tom Heaton missed Premier League matches, 37 year old former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson was the preferred option.

With Robinson retiring in July of 2017 and a further injury to Tom Heaton opening the door, the 2017/18 season has seen Pope grasp his opportunity with both hands. To date Pope has kept ten clean sheets in twenty seven Premier League appearances, working behind a defence containing fellow England hopefuls James Tarkowski and Ben Mee.

Could Pope go from League Two to a World Cup in three years? Despite being arguably England’s most in-form goalkeeper heading into the tournament the chances are probably slim. Without any injuries, Gareth Southgate will take Joe Hart, Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford. Despite being woefully out of form, going into a tournament without Joe Hart would be seen as a mistake by most, given his experience, even if he is just there to lend a helping hand to the number one. Butland doesn’t seem to be losing any favour from being embroiled in Stoke’s relegation battle while Pickford could claim to be Everton’s best player of this season. However one mistake, a loss of form or injury could see Pope take the place of any of these three.

Back at Bury, nearly three years have passed since that rainy day promotion at Tranmere and we have never properly replaced Nick Pope. Since that day twelve (!) different goalkeepers have been used, seven during the 2015/16 season alone. As we head towards relegation back to League Two, the summer would be that little bit more bearable knowing that an ex – Shaker was on the biggest stage of them all. All the best Nick, lad. UTS.

Football

Andy Robertson – From Amateur to Anfield

Published

on

Another 3 points gained under the Anfield lights on Saturday evening and another outstanding performance from one of Liverpool’s star men. Nope we’re not talking about Salah, Mane Mane or Bobby Firmino because it’s all about Robbo, Andy Robertson.
The left back who has made the position his own and is quite rightly receiving the plaudits he deserves.

Andy Robertson

Just 5 years ago Andy Robertson was playing for Scottish 3rd Division side Queens Park, a club in which he signed for after having been released by Celtic for being too small earlier in his career.
His move to Dundee United saw him instantly catch the eye of many north of the border. A renewed contract was agreed within just weeks of his debut and was followed with being PFA’s “Scotland Young Player of the Year” and a subsequent place in the PFA “Scotland Team of the Year” for the 2013-14 Scottish Premiership season.

Andy Robertson
All of this convinced Hull City to swoop with a near £3m bid to get their man, United accepted and the left back was on his way to the EPL.
3 seasons with Hull under the stewardship of former Man Utd stalwart Steve Bruce allowed him to gain what is deemed acceptable experience in England and it was Liverpool who won the race for his signature.
An absolute bargain at a reported £8m and his dream debut season is showing no signs of slowing down.

He has even earned the approval of Kop legend Stevie G. He told BT Sport: “He’s done terrifically well since coming in and the fans have taken to him. It’s not just about Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres, the top players that come, the fans love someone who gives 100 per cent.”
“He’s come in and he’s a very humble kid and gives it his all every game. To be fair to the kid. He’s been excellent.”
His lung bursting closing down run vs Man City made him a social media sensation but for those who have watched him for the past few years this was nothing out of the ordinary.
International recognition has obviously come his way and with 20 caps already under his belt, his partnership with Kieran Tierney gives The Tartan Army a strong looking left side for years to come.
He’s has never given up and has taken every chance that has come his way.
One of the signings of the 2017/18 season has undoubtedly been Liverpool’s Number 26.

Andy Robertson

Continue Reading

Football

How good is your FA Cup Knowledge?

Published

on

 

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 27: The FA Cup Trophy is seen prior to The Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

How good is your FA Cup knowledge?

FA Cup Quiz

Test your FA Cup knowledge with our quiz to mark the occasion.

Leaderboard: FA Cup Quiz

maximum of 15 points
Pos.NameEntered onPointsResult
Table is loading
No data available

Continue Reading

Football

Is the FA Cup losing it’s magic ?

Published

on

Having just seen the conclusion of the 3rd round of this seasons’ FA Cup we can’t help but think that much like the Premier League, trophy is Man City’s to lose, but is the magic of the FA Cup still alive?
The 4th round draw has hardly produced any must watch ties and we’ll probably see the top level teams progress further into the competition as expected, however…
The question remains is the gap decreasing or do the higher level players just care that bit less?
Shrewsbury deserved to beat West Ham, Fleetwood held Leicester, Wigan were pegged back late on by Bournemouth and these are all before Forest blew Arsenal away and Coventry City ended a managerial reign.
With the notable exception of Wengers’ men, we feel it only fair to say that the PL clubs sent out strong sides with a small number of changes that you would deem acceptable based on past seasons and a relatively busy recent schedule.
Dropping out of the big time you’d find an array of other “shocks.” Villa, Brentford and QPR all crashed out at home to lower league opposition whilst Mansfield and Carlisle held Championship opposition in 0-0 stalemates.
Yes, there will be the inevitable increase in performance from lower level players, especially when the TV cameras are in presence but is there more too it?
We genuinely believe the gap is closing between the 4 professional leagues in the English game. We are seeing bang average players be transferred for 10’s of millions and on some occasions it’s nothing more than footballing snobbery. Look at the lads at Bristol City, did many of us know of them? Why have they not been linked with bigger clubs? Are scouts just being sent abroad?
Prime example – 2 of the best performing left backs in the country are Barry Douglas (Wolves) & Andy Robertson (Liverpool) they have both plied their trade for Queens Park and Dundee United but it has taken needless additional years before having their talent recognised, they both transferred in the summer for a combined £11m, 1/3 of the fee for Luke Shaw or 1/5 of that for Benjamin Mendy.
The clubs without the guaranteed revenue streams which are provided to the top table teams are working harder, becoming more technically able and appear to just want it more.
The Prem does provide excitement but it is becoming far too much about the money and not about the football, it’s about not losing and only in the league. For many the FA Cup is nothing more than a distraction and you wouldn’t be surprised if the players were told “it’s all about next week and three points.”
With the top 4 virtually an exclusive club surely many of these managers need to finally realise that their best chance of recognition is a cup run with an “unfashionable club.” It would once again be refreshing to see a winner in the mould of a Wigan Athletic.
What this does mean, is that lower level clubs need to be taken a lot more seriously and the coming rounds treated just like a league game.
With only 4 PL sides guaranteed to progress could we be on for an all non PL final?
MK Dons vs Sheffield United anyone?
The FA Cup will continue to divide opinion amongst the purists, but for now it is still one of Europe’s premier competitions. We just need to hope that it is continued to be taken seriously by the majority and it creates similar magic and stories to those it has in the past.

Continue Reading

Trending