Nick Pope has become Eddie Howe’s second summer deal after Newcastle signed the England goalkeeper from relegated Burnley for just £10m. The 30-year-old moves to St James’ Park on a four-year contract after spending six seasons at Turf Moor. Pope, who had one year left on his contract at Burnley, will challenge Martin Dubravka for the No 1 Magpies jersey. The Magpies boss Howe said:
Nick is an exceptional Premier League and international level goalkeeper so I’m very pleased to be adding strong competition to a very important position. There has been a lot of interest in him from other clubs this summer, so I’d like to thank our owners and everyone behind the scenes for getting us ahead of the competition. I’m delighted he is joining us as we prepare for the exciting challenge ahead.
Nicholas David Pope has an interesting journey, literally starting from the bottom and reaching the top tier of English football. The now-6 foot 3 keeper started playing football at the age of 10 with local club Ipswich Town, later joining non-league Bury Town in 2008. While at Bury Town he remained an Ipswich Town ticket-holder and looked up to Richard Wright and Kelvin Davis. Pope excelled for the Blues as a teenager and planned to attend university to pursue a sports science degree at Nottingham Trent.
But then Charlton Athletic came to call in 2011, penning Pope to a five-year contract. However, he just made 33 appearances for them as he was sent out on loan to five different lower league and non-league clubs, spending time with the likes of Harrow Borough, Welling United, and Cambridge United. He even joined Aldershot Town followed by League Two sides York City in 2013/14 and Bury in 2015/16. The youngster helped the Shakers win promotion from the fourth tier at the end of his half-season loan and then returned to The Valley, making a mark in the Championship with 28 outings.
In July 2016, after gaining important years of experience, Pope was purchased by Burnley. During his first year at Turf Moor he became a solid back-up keeper for the experienced Tom Heaton and Paul Robinson, but in September 2017, manager Sean Dyche finally handed him his Premier League debut. It was really the 2017/18 campaign that helped cement Pope’s name in the top-flight where his impressive performance in 38 games – including 13 clean sheets – earned him international call up. He played an integral part in helping the club qualify for the Europa League, the Clarets finishing seventh in the table. Later, the keeper was named as part of Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad for the World Cup in Russia, despite not featuring in that mega-tournament.
In 141 top-flight appearances, the 30-year-old has kept 46 clean sheets. He was twice voted Burnley’s Player of the Year and, in 2019/20, was named in the PFA Premier League team of the year after keeping 15 clean sheets in 38 games.
Pope’s England debut came in 2018 as a substitute in a friendly match against Costa Rica. In March 2021 he would become the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in his first six appearances for England following a 2-0 win over Albania.
What will Pope offer Newcastle?
Pope was a success story in the 2020-21 Premier League season, where he had an impressive 77% save rate. He maintained his form the following season, boasting a 73% save rate. Moreover, the shot-stopper helped Burnley – despite ultimately suffering relegation — to the tenth best defensive record in the league, conceding only 53 goals.
Pope brings a sense of safety and confidence to his defenders, where his sweeper-keeper skills saw him accrue the joint-most defensive actions (interceptions, tackles, or blocks) outside of the box of any PL keeper last season. Pope’s 1.8 per 90 dwarfs his challenger and current Magpie #1, Martin Dubravka (0.4 per 90). On average his defensive actions also took place further up the field (18.2 yards) than any keeper.
In Eddie Howe’s system perhaps Pope will have to improve his distribution and ability to build from the back, but his skills as a shot-stopper mean his defenders will have confidence in the man behind them, and his sweeper-keeper style means that Pope can support an attacking press high up the pitch.
Nick Pope is priced at £5.0M, while Martin Dubravka stands at £4.5M.
Famous for his ability to rack up saves, only four keepers made more than the former Burnley keeper last term. Behind a defense that kept seven clean sheets in 2022, Pope’s £5.0 million price tag is reasonable. The England international will likely replace Dubravka as first choice, and with Newcastle’s new, solid backline, we can expect points from both clean sheets and saves.
However, it is important to mention that Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy is surprisingly listed at just £5.0 million, and Liverpool’s Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson are only half a million more. As good as he is, one must consider if these other netminders who play for top-three sides represent better fantasy value than Pope.