Nick Pope: Newcastle’s English Goalkeeper

After sealing a return to the UEFA Champions League following a two-decade absence, Newcastle have been busy in the transfer market, completing a deal for Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali for €70 million. Valentino Livramento has been linked with a move from relegated Southampton, whilst several wide forwards like Harvey Barnes and Moussa Diaby have been reported as transfer targets as well. It seems unlikely that they will reinforce in goal, though: they have already found one of the league’s most reliable goalkeepers in English veteran Nick Pope.


Born in Soham, Cambridgeshire, Pope gradually made his way up the youth ranks at Ipswich Town, the club he supported as an adolescent, but his time was cut short after being released by the club at 16 years of age. From there, he joined West Suffolk College, whose under-19 side was linked with non-League side Bury Town. Despite his young age, Pope impressed in the few matches that he started, leading manager Richard Wilkins to call him “the most naturally-talented player to progress through the ranks at the West Suffolk Sports Academy and Bury Town.”


His performances for Bury attracted the attention of Charlton Athletic, who offered him a trial and subsequently a two-year contract. He would spend the next two years bouncing around from brief loan spells at Harrow Borough, Wellington United, Cambridge United, Aldershot Town and York City, gaining experience across the lower levels of English football. On January 6, 2015, Pope joined Bury on loan, and he quickly won a starting spot under manager David Filtcroft as The Shakers won promotion to League One.


Pope finally broke into Charlton’s starting line-up in the 2015/16 season, with then manager Guy Luzon giving him the nod in between the sticks, but he was displaced from the eleven after veteran Stephen Henderson’s return from his shoulder injury. Pope regained his place in the team at the start of March, and although it wasn’t enough to keep Charlton in the Championship, it was enough to convince newly promoted Burnley to pay a fee within the region of £1 million for his services.



After being limited to cup appearances in his first season at Turf Moor, he made his Premier League debut on September 10, 2017, in a 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace. Pope replaced Tom Heaton midway through the match after Heaton succumbed to a shoulder injury that would sideline him for the bulk of the campaign, and when he returned to full fitness, he found himself on the bench to Pope, six years his junior. With Pope guiding a rock-solid defense, Burnley finished 7th in the Premier League and sealed European football for the first time in 51 years. 


It was a glorious campaign for Sean Dyche’s Clarets, and Southgate took notice. He called Pope up to the England national team for the first time on March 15, 2018, and despite not having played a single match for the senior team, included him in his 23-man squad for the Three Lions. Pope made his maiden appearances in a pre-tournament friendly against Costa Rica, but seven weeks later, he faced one of the lowest moments in his professional career after dislocating his shoulder in a Europa League qualifier against Aberdeen. Pope made just three appearances for Burnley in the 2018/19 season as Heaton and Joe Hart vied for the #1 spot.


Nevertheless, Burnley maintained their faith in their young goalkeeper, and at the end of the season, Pope signed a bumper new four-year contract. Dyche made it abundantly clear from the start of the season that Pope would be getting the nod in goal over Heaton, forcing the club captain to join Aston Villa for minutes. Pope continued to impress at Turf Moor until 2022, when, following Burnley’s relegation, a number of key players departed the club including Dwight McNeil, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Nathan Collins and more.


Pope joined Newcastle for £10 million and quickly made the starting spot his own, with the England international excelling between the sticks with a wide display of jaw-dropping reaction saves and quick movement. At 6’5″, he has an ideal frame for a player of his position, and whilst his sending-off against Liverpool (costing him a chance to play in the EFL Cup Final vs. Manchester United) was a blight on his record, it was nevertheless the exception as opposed to the rule.


The 31-year-old has proven to be a vital cog in goal at St. James’ Park, capable of adjusting his body, making himself big in 1v1s and using his large frame to stretch out and deflect a shot for a corner kick. He’s a confident player who knows when to rush out and perturb the striker when he’s alone in a counter, confident coming off his line to engage the opponent. And after playing a key role in their fourth-place finish, he has a chance to lead Newcastle to a deep run in next season’s UEFA Champions League.


By: Zach Lowy / @ZachLowy

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Visionhaus / Getty Images