Nick Pope has insisted he is giving no thought to a possible England recall as he focuses on Burnley’s bid to climb off the foot of the Premier League table.
The 29-year-old was left out of Gareth Southgate’s last two squads, having earned the most recent of his seven caps in a 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Poland in March last year.
That was the first time Pope had conceded an international goal after six clean sheets in an impressive start to his England career, but he has seen himself fall down the pecking order regardless.
But as much as he would love to earn a recall for the friendlies at the end of March, Pope said he is only thinking about Burnley’s survival fight.
“I’m not hoping at all,” Pope said. “It’s so far away and there are a lot of important games before then. For me to have half an eye on that would be disrespectful to this club and my team-mates.
“Of course it would be good, as getting in any England squad is for any individual – you feel you’ve performed at a good level to get into the elite of this country. It’s always an honour and any player will tell you that.
“But it’s something that if it happens it happens and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. There’s a big few weeks for this club that need to be concentrated on. It’s something that will look after itself.
“Anything less would not be doing justice to my manager here, my team-mates and this club that has done so much for me.”
Pope’s form certainly has not been part of the problem for Burnley this season. The Clarets sit bottom of the table having lost nine of their 21 league games – the lowest number of any side in the bottom seven.
In their 21 games, Burnley have conceded 29 goals – again, the lowest number in the bottom half of the table and fewer than both Manchester United and West Ham, two sides in the fight for Champions League places.
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“It shows that we’re not that far away,” Pope added. “If you’d lost the most games and conceded the most goals you might think there’s no end in sight. I think it should and does give us tremendous belief that if we keep doing the right things, it will click into place.”
Pope was one of several Burnley players sidelined by Covid-19 over the Christmas period but, after a number of games in January were postponed, he has kept clean sheets against Arsenal and Watford and restricted Manchester United and Liverpool to one goal apiece in recent matches.
“I feel in a good place at the minute,” he said. “I had Covid over New Year and Christmas and to come out of that period, to look after myself in that period, was important and then to hit the ground running I felt was important.”
But though there have been encouraging performances which have often gone unrewarded, the reality is that Burnley head to Brighton on Saturday now seven points from safety. Though they have games in hand, even if they were to win both, they would still be in the bottom three.
“At the end of the season the table is not going to lie, so does it lie halfway through?” Pope said. “I think as a group of players, we feel that performance levels early in the season were good but we didn’t get the points we deserved.
“Then we went through a dip in form so we didn’t get any points, where in the past we might have nicked a result.
“Now performance levels are spiking up again and we look a good outfit, solid defensively and a threat on the ball.”