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Pope: Southgate call boosted spirits amid tough time

Pope: Southgate call boosted spirits amid tough time
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England goalkeeper suffered a serious injury.

Nick Pope has spoken of the lift he got from a phonecall from England boss Gareth Southgate during his spell out injured.

On Saturday the goalkeeper returned to first-team action in Burnley's 1-0 FA Cup victory over Barnsley, making his first appearance since suffering a dislocated shoulder against Aberdeen in July.

Prior to the injury, 2018 had been a year to savour for Pope.

The season that saw him become the Clarets' first-choice goalkeeper finished with them seventh in the Premier League, and the 26-year-old was then part of Southgate's squad for the World Cup.

When asked after the Barnsley game if Southgate had stayed in touch over the last few months, Pope said: "He has.

"After I got injured, a couple of weeks later after it all died down, he rang me and I had a great conversation with him, so that was a nice lift at a time that was difficult. It was great to hear from him.

"Throughout the World Cup his man-management was top-drawer, so it wasn't a surprise really. But it was really nice to get that call."

When then asked about remaining in Southgate's thoughts, Pope – who won his sole cap to date in a friendly against Costa Rica in June – said: "Fingers crossed.

"You just need to play games to get in the thoughts and that's what I have to look to do from now until the end of the season."

Pope is now one of three England-capped goalkeepers in the Burnley squad, along with Tom Heaton and Joe Hart, who was signed in August.

"It is (an amazing situation), something maybe not many people would expect at Burnley or any club in the Premier League," Pope said.

"That's the situation we've got ourselves and it's up to us to decide – only one can play, and who gets the shirt? We've all got to be pushing each other every day."

Pope, who says there is a good atmosphere among the trio, added: "What every player wants is a chance to put on a shirt on a Saturday and show that you're there to stay in the team. You want to keep the shirt."

Hart played in each of Burnley's first 19 league games this term before being dropped after the 5-1 home loss to Everton on Boxing Day.

Heaton has played in the two league outings since then with Hart on the bench, as he was again on Saturday as Heaton dropped out of the 18.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche stressed when asked about having all three fit for next Saturday's home league clash against Fulham that Pope "still needs time."

Pope said: "I'm happy with (the Barnsley match) and I played a reserve game as well so I'm well on the way now. I've been training a month. I'm happy with where I am at the minute. I feel good.

"If someone asks what is the worst thing about football I'd probably say injuries. Being not even able to get on the training pitch, and not playing on a Saturday, that's the toughest thing about it all. But it's behind me now and I have to look forward.

"It's been a funny old year."

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Sean Dyche watches on during the Premier League game between Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley on December 15, 2018
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