Nick Pope has spoken of his pride and honour at being called up to England’s World Cup squad at the end of the best year of his career.
Pope is training with the England camp at their St George’s Park base as Gareth Southgate’s squad prepares for the tournament which starts in Russia next month.
The Burnley goalkeeper – who hadn’t played a Premier League game until last September – continued his meteoric rise by being named as one of the three keepers in Southgate’s squad alongside Jordan Pickford of Everton and Stoke City’s Jack Butland.
And in an in-depth conversation with Clarets Player HD, the 26-year-old explained his emotions when he received news of his selection while on holiday in Cyprus last week.
“It was excitement, pride and honour and a sense of achievement that out of all the English players in the world, and in this country, that you are in the 23 that are going to represent the nation in the World Cup,” said Pope.
“If you could be in any squad I think you would be in this one. To be involved in a World Cup squad fills me with excitement and I’m looking forward to every day.
“I’ve got to be incredibly happy. I’ve just had the best year of my career.
“I’ve got into a European spot with Burnley, something that I could never have pictured myself doing, and now I’ve just been called into the World Cup squad, to represent your country and your nation on the biggest stage in the world.
“I’m immensely proud and happy that I’ve got to this stage, but now we’re here we want to kick on.”
England have been drawn in Group G alongside Belgium, Panama and Tunisia with their opening fixture against the African nation in Volgograd on Monday, 18 June.
The Three Lions haven't made it beyond the World Cup's round of 16 since 2006 and not been as far as the semi-finals since 1990.
But Pope will travel to Russia with hope as part of a youthful squad selected by Southgate for his first major tournament in charge.
“We have had meetings about what we want to achieve and what we feel could happen at this World Cup,” added Pope, who along with Iceland’s Johann Berg Gudmundsson becomes the first Burnley player to go to the Finals since 1982.
“I think the biggest thing to come out of it is what an opportunity it could be for this squad, and us as a group of people, to make the country proud and put down a marker and a legacy for the future and to be a target for future generations.”
Before England fly out they face two warm-up games against Nigeria at Wembley on 2 June and Costa Rica at Elland Road on 7 June with Pope, who was first part of the squad for two friendlies in March, hoping an England debut is not too far away.
“The friendlies are what you’re looking at really now,” he said.
“The first (World Cup) game is when everyone wants to have the shirt but the two games coming up will decide who plays that first game. They’re what you keep your focus on really.
“Get to the first of these next two games and see how it goes and I will prepare myself as best as I can in the next two weeks in training to give myself the best chance of getting on the pitch.
“When you are in an England squad the next goal is to get a cap. That’s something everyone dreams of as a young boy.
“Everyone is an England fan and when there is a World Cup or a Euros on the country stands still to watch those games.
“I have always been a part of that growing up and that’s hopefully the next step and the next goal I want to achieve - to get my first England cap.”
Pope’s elevation to World Cup duty follows a season which saw the former Charlton Athletic number-one grab his opportunity at Turf Moor in the absence of the injured Tom Heaton.
The ex-Ipswich Town youngster, who went to study at college after being released from Portman Road as a 16-year-old, kept 12 clean sheets as the Clarets finished seventh in the Premier League to secure a place in next season’s Europa League.
And Pope – who will have Heaton and James Tarkowski alongside him during the build-up to Russia following their selection on England’s stand-by list – thanked his club-mates for their part in his realisation of a dream.
He added: “I have been fortunate enough to be part of a great Burnley squad and a great Burnley team that has got into Europe.
“That has helped my cause as well, so I can’t thank the boys in front of me enough.
“They’ve played a massive part. From day one when I first came into the building a couple of years ago the lads have taken me into the squad and looked after me.
“As soon as I got in the team I had a lot of Premier League experience around me. The boys looked after me, threw their bodies on the line to stop the ball going in the goal and gave me advice from their experiences of playing and that really helped me settle in.
“Without those lads in front of me we wouldn’t have had a season like we did and I wouldn't be in this England squad. They’re people I couldn’t have done this without.”
Watch the full interview by clicking on the freeview video above as Nick Pope reflects on his journey to a World Cup call-up, Burnley’s historic season and the role goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer and his team-mates have played in his fairytale story.