With Nick Pope set to link up with his new Toon teammates next week, it feels like a good time to take a closer look at Newcastle United’s second signing of the summer.
We reached out to Chris Boden – the Sports Editor at Burnley Express – to learn more about the 6ft 6′ giant who signed at St James’ Park last month.
Speaking exclusively to NUFC Blog, he discussed his strengths and weaknesses as a player, the reasons behind the bargain move, his ability to play out from the back and his character.
Read the Q&A in full below:
1. First off, what are Pope’s strengths as a player?
“You only have to see the highlights reels of his time at Burnley to see what a good shot-stopper he is, the type that makes saves you can scarcely believe. He’s a goalkeeper that will win you games in that respect.
And his command of his area, and ability to come and take pressure off his defence by coming and claiming high balls is as good as anyone at the top level – the only time I can recall him making a slip in that regard was ironically at St James’ in December. But you could count his mistakes on one hand over six years.
He’s also very vocal and a good organiser.“
2. What are the weak areas of his game?
“I think most would agree it is his distribution, or more accurately, his kicking – although his lack of technique in that regard has never proved costly in terms of directly leading to conceding a goal.
Many people have observed that it is that area in which he is lagging behind Pickford, Ramsdale, Johnstone and Henderson, but in all other areas, I think he more than makes up for it.
He is a good reader of the game in terms of coming out to clear the danger, but he’s not the type of keeper that is going to Cruyff-turn a forward!“
His distribution actually improved after the departure of Sean Dyche as he was encouraged to roll the ball out and keep it more simple at times, rather than get the ball forward quickly.
3. At £10m, this feels like a bargain. Any idea how we’ve managed to get an England international in his prime at such a cut-price fee? Some Burnley fans I’ve spoken to recently expected him to fetch at least £25-£30m…
“I can only put it down to him only having a year remaining on his contract, although there was an option for an extra year.
He may be older than Ramsdale and Henderson but is in the prime of his career and could play for years yet at the top level.
Burnley are not being awkward with a player who cost £1m and gave good service, and they acknowledge he deserves to be playing in the Premier League, especially in a World Cup year.“
4. The big question on the lips of nearly all Newcastle fans – how will he cope if Eddie Howe opts to play out from the back? His Bournemouth side did, yet Pope has never seemed comfortable with the ball at his feet…
“As above, he was looking more adept in that sense under interim boss Mike Jackson, and I’ve always believed it was something that could be drilled into someone on the training ground…
I think you’d see a difference between Pope’s actions and Alison’s, say. Pope would generally be getting rid while Alisson would recycle the ball and keep possession I imagine!“
5. Last but not least, what’s Nick like as a character? We have great team spirit at the minute and so many leaders, so I’m keen to know how he’ll fit in…
“You only have to see his leaving message on social media, referring to his teammates as “brothers” – he was hugely popular and developed a real bond with the players and staff.
He came up the hard way, rejected by his boyhood club Ipswich, and thought he’d follow his family onto the farm, ending up working on a milk round and at Next!
He’s very grounded as a result, with no airs and graces. Newcastle are getting a top keeper and a top bloke.“