In our weekly Scout feature, Daniel Roberts takes a detailed look at a new emerging talent from world football. Today’s edition looks at Charlton goalkeeper, Nick Pope.
One of the shining lights in a poor season at Charlton, Nick Pope has returned from a number of loan deals to make himself number one at The Valley. Starting his career in the Ipswich Town youth system, he was later released and his career looked to have come to an end early.
The end of the dream however was a blessing in disguise. After falling out of love with the game during the rigorous academy lifestyle, Pope returned to school football and reignited his love for the game. He then moved on to enjoy three years at the West Suffolk College in Cambridgeshire and joined Bury Town on a semi-professional contract.
Making his debut for the club at just 16, he challenged the experienced no.1 Marcus Garnham and produced a number of mature and impressive performances when called upon. After being allowed to train with Charlton Athletic back in 2011, the stopper impressed enough to earn himself a two-year contract with the club.
Soon after joining, the youngster started his loan merry-go-round and in three years. Loans at Harrow Borough, Welling United, Cambridge, Aldershot and York City saw the Sohom-born Pope make 55 first-team appearances, which paved the way for the youngster to join Bury FC last year as they raced to promotion to League Two.
Upon signing for the Shakers, Charlton goalkeeper coach Ben Roberts praised the youngster, stating: “we see him as an asset to Charlton”. Becoming a crucial part of their squad that finished in third spot, gaining automatic promotion to League One, Pope made 22 appearances and impressed significantly. During his time at the club, he received high praise from the fans and his peers, with midfielder Tom Soares declaring: “he’s been brilliant since he’s been here.”
He would return to Charlton again this season and was given a starting birth in the club’s opening game of the season against relegated Queens Park Rangers, picking up a clean sheet in the Addicks’ 2-0 victory. He would go on to play in the next 11 matches, before losing his place to Stephen Henderson. He returned to the starting line-up in March, and was once again on the winning side, helping his side record a 2-1 win over Brentford. He would go on to retain his place in the team for the rest of the season and received numerous plaudits.
In a difficult campaign for Charlton, which saw them relegated to League One, Pope’s contribution was one of only a few pluses for the club. Impressively, in his 24 appearances, the keeper had six clean sheets, an 98% average claim success and made an average 3.04 save per game, making five in Charlton’s narrow 1-0 loss to play-off semi-finalists Derby County.
What do the experts say?
Former Charlton boss Chris Powell: “Good young British goalkeepers are few and far between. We feel we’ve got one who will develop into a very good goalkeeper.”
Bury Director of Football Trevor Collins: “Popey is a fantastic lad with a great attitude”.
Bury manager Richard Wilkins: He’s the most naturally talented player to progress through the ranks at the West Suffolk sports Academy and Bury Town. I honestly think [he] can go all the way to the top.”
Where does the future lie?
As TEAMtalk revealed earlier this week, there are a number of clubs highly interested in signing Nick Pope this summer.
With Leeds United and Celtic expected to lock horns with Premier League clubs Burnley and Crystal Palace to secure the 24-year-olds signature, it is possible that he could be set to move on.
And while Pope has stated his desire to stay at The Valley, declaring: “I’m contracted here for another two years. I’m a Charlton player and I’m not looking to move.” That certainly won’t deter the interested parties in pursing the youngster.
Wherever the stopper plays next season, it is expected that he will take his good end-of-season form into the following campaign and continue to improve.
With Premier League interest already circulating, Pope is certainly one of the most exciting young goalkeepers in the country and it is probable that he will go on to enjoy a successful career in the game, whether that be at a top end Championship side or in fact in the top tier of English football.