Billy Mercer has revealed his immense pride at nurturing two England goalkeepers.
The Clarets’ goalkeeping coach hopes to witness history with the rest of the Burnley squad in Cork on Wednesday evening, as they gather round the television to watch Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions aim for a first World Cup final in 52 years.
For Mercer, there is extra satisfaction in seeing Nick Pope take his place in the squad, following his meteoric rise since arriving at Turf Moor.
Pope, of course, follows in the footsteps of team-mate Tom Heaton, who was on stand-by to fly to Russia after making a full recovery from the dislocated shoulder that led to Pope grabbing his opportunity with both gloves last season.
“It’s been an unbelievable 12 months for Nick and the football club. He came in when Tom was injured and to end it with an England cap and go to the World Cup is just off the scale,” Mercer told Clarets Player “We’ve all been watching how England have done and to cap it off with a final and maybe even a win would be absolutely fantastic.
“Nick has had to be patient and I’m sure it would have been really difficult to leave Joe Hart behind, given what he has done, but you have to pick people on form and his inclusion was justified.
“It’s the same for Tom, because he was just coming back to fitness, so to get both of them training with England before they flew out to Russia was fantastic.
“That’s testament to the boys really and how they have worked over the past few years. Tom has been with us over the last five years, but Nick has only been with us for two and had to be patient, but has impressed us all behind the scenes.
“I’ve spoken to him a few times and he can’t believe what’s happening. He’s in a bit of a whirlwind and it’s an unbelievable experience.”
Mercer, who is working in Cork with a full complement of keepers - with former Danish international Anders Lindegaard, Adam Legzdins and Northern Ireland U21 stopper Conor Mitchell alongside Heaton – admits he is delighted with his strong group.
But he warned Pope that whatever the coming week brings, he will have a “fight on his hands” to resume the number one spot on his return to Turf Moor.
He added: “Everyone talks about when you have young, inexperienced keepers and how they can deal with failure and making mistakes, but I’ve always been big on how they deal with success because sometimes they can get a bit blasé and big-headed about it.
“Our boys don’t do that; they are level-headed, so it will be interesting when Nick gets back. I’m sure he won’t change, but he’s got a fight on his hands, that’s for sure!
“Tom’s biggest strength is his mentality. He was very disappointed (at missing the World Cup) and rightfully so, but he’s pushed that to one side and looking at him now you wouldn’t think he’d had an injury.
“He’s now 100 per cent fit, raring to go and up for the battle and I’m just glad I don’t pick the team!”
A full video interview with Billy Mercer will appear on the website on Wednesday.