I am an investor, therefore I approach many things in life with a dispassionate, long-term view. I understand the power of compounding, and have learned to separate emotion and instant gratification from rational and sound decision making.
When it comes to picking fantasy assets, however, out goes Warren Buffet and in comes the Wolf of Wall Street. This year I’ve been peddling penny stocks like Wilfred Ndidi, Ander Herrera and (this one is going to hurt me way more than it’ll hurt you) Robbie Brady (so far at least). He’ll come good. I can’t help myself. Really, he will. Sorry I really can’t help myself...
Once in a while, however, my inner Buffet comes back, and I do buy into a player and I hold long term. Christian Eriksen is a wonderful example. I’ve been a fan for years, and I’ll be a fan even when he’s toiling for Everton as a 34 year-old slowpoke who doesn’t fit the roster. I thought Tom Heaton, the saves-machine Burnley goalkeeper, would be enshrined as well. And then he dislocated his shoulder in GW4 versus Crystal Palace, was ruled out for many, many months, and I panicked. Before the injury I had no clue who Heaton’s backup was. Before the injury I had no interest in who Heaton’s backup was. Why would I? Why would anyone? But I was arrogant.
We need to know: Who will save our superhero when our superhero needs saving?
Who saves Metropolis if Superman is unavailable?
Now we know.
The Young Pope of Burnley is who.
Introducing the Young Pope
It would be the understatement of this EPL season to say that Nick Pope was a riddle wrapped in an enigma until the moment he ripped off his training gear to reveal his superhero tac-suit in relief of the fallen Heaton in GW4, .
Quick experiment to prove my point. Google “Nick Pope” and see who comes up. Is it the Burnley keeper or some freelance British journalist?
(Waiting some more...)
So who is our Young Pope?
Nick Pope was born on April 19, 1992 in a town named Sohan in Cambridgeshire. He began his footballing career in Ipswich Town’s academy before joining Bury Town in 2008 and being “discovered” by Charlton Athletic in 2011. Pope played 33 games for Charlton and was loaned out to numerous teams until he signed a three-year contract with Burnley in July 2016. His superhero coming-out party against Crystal Palace was his first EPL action for the team.
An alternate biography tells us that there is no record of a “Nick Pope” being born in the town of Sohan on April 19, 1992, but that a space ship landed in the town on that day and two townies subsequently adopted a boy who would go on to display superhuman qualities.
Before proving that humankind may not be alone in the universe, the Young Pope served as Heaton’s and Paul Robinson’s understudy for most of the 2016-17 EPL season even though he was Burnley’s main FA Cup goalkeeper and posted shutouts against Sunderland and Bristol City. With Robinson retiring following the end of last season, Pope was elevated to the number two role.
Admiring the Young Pope
If you are reading this, you are probably a fan of fantasy EPL, whatever the format. I prefer Togga and also dabble with the official game.
If you are a fan of fantasy EPL, you’re probably finding a lot of value in the Burnley defense. Guys like Stephen Ward, James Tarkowski, Matt Lowton and Ben Mee were not high draft picks in most Togga drafts, and are phenomenal value plays in the official game. All four are £4.6 or below!!!!
Joining them in the bargain bin (£4.5) is our young hero goalkeeper. Here is what he’s done for you on Official since his GW4 debut (prepare to be amazed):
GW4 v Crystal Palace: 2 points
GW5 @ Liverpool: 4 pts
GW6 v Huddersfield Town: 6 pts
GW7 @ Everton: 9 pts
Total points: 21
In Togga, his numbers are even more spectacular:
GW4: 6.0 pts
GW5: 11.25 pts
GW6: 13.5 pts
GW7: 24.75 pts
Total points: 55.5 / Points Per Match: 13.88!!!!
For context, here’s what some other goalkeepers have done in Togga:
Jonas Lossl, Huddersfield Town (61 total points / 8.71 points per match)
Fraser Forster, Southampton (66.75 / 9.54)
Ederson, Manchester City (53.5 / 7.64)
Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea (47 / 6.7)
David de Gea, Manchester United (76.75 / 11.0)
In fact, our Young Pope leads all Togga goalkeepers in points per match.
Whither the Young Pope?
I’m going to make this simple. Burnley are who we thought they were. They give up a ton of long distance shots and make it very hard to get off shots in danger areas. That means that their goalkeepers can earn a lot of saves points (worth 2 points in Togga!), while being practically assured of never giving up a big score, or a “Simon Mignolet Special” consisiting of 3 goals allowed and 0 saves.
Since his GW4 introduction, the Young Pope has racked up 17 saves in 324 minutes (roughly a save every 19 minutes). By way of comparison, Swansea City’s Lukasz Fabianski, this season’s saves leader through GW7, has averaged a save every 21.7 minutes.
Burnley’s upcoming schedule is a mixed-bag, with a GW8 visit by West Ham followed by an away game at the Etihad. The schedule from GW10 onward offers “easy” fixtures against Newcastle, at Southampton, and Swansea City.
In short, we can expect the Young Pope to continue his divine ways and I’m recommending him as a long-term own in any fantasy EPL format.
I am going out on a limb here and predicting that freelance British journalist Nick Pope’s days as the Google “Nick Pope” champion are numbered. His Eminence, Nick Pope of Burnley has arrived.
What do you think of Nick Pope? Is he on your fantasy teams? Do you think he can keep up his stellar work, or is his stellar performance just small sample size? Let us know in the comments!