It's surely only a matter of time until Nick Pope surpasses Jordan Pickford as Gareth Southgate's top goalkeeping option right?

Conventional thinking has it that Jordan Pickford is England’s number one keeper, a conclusion that is perfectly reasonable, and frankly undeniable, given that Everton’s shot-stopper has played in all of his country’s big games since emerging onto the international scene five years ago.

Clearly, he is Gareth Southgate’s first choice and clearly he has his manager’s full support and trust. 

Aaron Ramsdale meanwhile has recently firmly established himself as Pickford’s deputy, following a couple of outstanding seasons with Arsenal.

As for Nick Pope, for several years now the former Burnley keeper has been widely regarded as a no-brainer squad pick for the major tournaments, but only as third choice.

Even this position appeared to be in some jeopardy last September when the 30-year-old endured a calamitous appearance at Wembley against Germany, spilling a straightforward shot late-on resulting in a costly equaliser.

That mistake of course can be put down to mere misfortune, an inevitable, occasional mishap that is included in any goalkeeper’s job description, and it is hoped that Southgate views it that way, as he surely does.

Because putting that poor 90 minutes aside, Pope has been consistently exceptional in 2022/23. 

Indeed, it could be argued that on current form a back-up to a back-up for the Three Lions has been by some distance the best keeper out there of an English persuasion, and the stats prove this. 

After joining Newcastle’s lavishly funded revolution last summer, Pope has been pivotal in the Magpies ascent into top four contention, impressing on a weekly basis and providing a surety at the back that was previously missing.

No Premier League stopper boasts more clean sheets, with Pope the only number one to reach double figures at this juncture.

No top-flight stopper has conceded fewer goals, a miserly 11 that equates to him being beaten by some of the world’s sharpest shooters every 163 minutes. 

And if you believe that the differing qualities of the teams ahead of them is a factor when comparing to Pickford, consider this. Pope has saved 51 of the 62 shots he has faced this term, giving him an 82% save percentage. Pickford’s is 71.7%. 

What’s more, it is a lofty calibre of goalkeeping from the 6ft 3 presence that extends far beyond this season.

Presently, Pope’s assuredness, agility and calm decision-making is having a meaningful impact on Newcastle’s Premier League odds but for five arduous campaigns he also almost single-handedly belied the Premier League relegation betting, keeping Burnley up via countless brilliant displays. 

On two occasions he was voted the Clarets’ Player of the Year while in an especially stand-out season in 2019/20 he narrowly lost out on claiming the Premier League Golden Glove to Manchester City’s Ederson.

Here we can legitimately refer to the differing qualities of the teams ahead of them. Fifteen clean sheets for a perennially struggling side is little short of remarkable. 

Pope’s feats in Lancashire are mentioned here to illustrate that this is anything but a flash-in-the-pan campaign. He has been superb now for quite some time. 

Yet still, when England begin their Euro qualifiers this March it is Jordan Pickford who will be selected, for he is Southgate’s man. Sometimes though, conventional thinking is wrong.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*


FIRST PUBLISHED: 2nd February 2023

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.