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Dyche Praise For World Cup Wonder

Boss hails Nick Pope's 'great story' and the professionalism of Tom Heaton and James Tarkowski as England come calling

16 May 2018

Sean Dyche described Nick Pope’s journey to a place at the World Cup as the ‘marvel of football’ after the Clarets’ goalkeeper was named in England’s squad.

Pope’s seat has been booked on the plane to Russia after he was included in Gareth Southgate’s 23-man party for the World Cup Finals, which start next month.

And his call-up caps a remarkable rise for the 26-year-old, whose Premier League debut for the Clarets came only last September as a replacement for the injured Tom Heaton, who has been included alongside Burnley team-mate James Tarkowski on England’s five-man stand-by list for the tournament.

“What a season Nick has had and to be in the main squad speaks for itself in terms of the season he’s had,” said Burnley boss Dyche.

“He not only come in and did a great job in the early days of Tom Heaton being injured, but actually made it hard for Tom to get back through very good performances.

“That’s been recognised by his Player of the Year award, internationally and now by a squad call-up for a World Cup Finals, which is fantastic for him and us.”

Pope received his first international selection in March - without playing in two friendlies - and will go to the World Cup just two years after joining the Clarets from Charlton Athletic following the Addicks’ relegation to League One.

“There has been a lot of good work done at the training ground with Billy Mercer and all the other ‘keepers and, along with the mentality of the whole team, he has definitely played a part in our success,” added Dyche, who guided Burnley to seventh place in the Premier League with the help of 12 clean sheets from Pope.

“I think he has already shown that he is maturing as a player and has certainly matured into the Premier League over the season.

“The original international recognition was a great thing in itself, but to now take it to the next level is fantastic.

“We can use all the words we want, but it’s the marvel of football sometimes and Nick’s is a great story.”

Pope is one of three goalkeepers in the England squad – alongside Everton’s Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland of Stoke City.

And he will be joined in training and for England’s two warm-up games against Nigeria and Costa Rica by Heaton, whose standing in the country’s goalkeeping ranks has been recognised by Southgate, despite an absence from first-team football of eight months.  

“Firstly, and very importantly, it shows what a top-class keeper Tom is, because he’s had a long spell out and been patient before getting back to full fitness, yet Gareth is still thinking of him now,” said Dyche.

“That’s fantastic and is a testament to his professionalism and performance levels.”

Tarkowski, capped once by England in a friendly against Italy in March, will also be with the squad as back-up prior to their departure on 12 June.

Any injuries could still see the centre-back join Pope and club-mate Johann Berg Gudmundsson in Russia at the end of a season which has seen the 25-year-old blossom in the Premier League.  

"With ‘Tarky’, it’s similar to ‘Popey’, in that all the hard work he put in last season, while waiting patiently for a run of games, has paid him back,” added Dyche, who promoted Tarkowski to frontline duty following the sale of Michael Keane to Everton to last summer.

"Their professionalism, away from playing, eventually pays you back and certainly in their case, that’s the case.”

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