Nick Pope’s story is a grand one... young players take note, it’s game time, not money that should drive you
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Bacon’s Bites: Mike Bacon’s thoughts on the sporting world. Who wants to live Down Under?
Nick Pope’s story is one for many of today’s budding young footballers to take note of.
The current Burnley goalkeeper, who was born in Soham and played non-league for Bury Town, at Ram Meadow, was a youngster at Ipswich Town, but released as a 16-year-old.
He must have thought his dreams of ever playing professional football were over.
Like so many hundreds of young academy stars of today, spat up and turned out by the system – their hopes and dreams shattered.
But Pope has bounced back and after being snapped up by Charlton Athletic six years ago, where he spent copious amounts of time out on loan, often at non-league clubs, no doubt playing at times in front of a few hundred fans, Burnley spotted him, signed him up and, after Tom Heaton got injured earlier this season, Pope was given his chance in the Premier League by Sean Dyche.
The rest, as they say, is history. He’s played eight Premier League games for the Clarets...And counting!
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“You dream of playing – you don’t dream of sitting on the bench,” Pope said.
I tell Pope’s story for two reasons.
Firstly, the fact that young footballers who get rejected by academies should never give up on their dreams. The game is all about opinions and one coach’s opinion of a player could be the opposite of another.
But my second reasoning is to do with Pope’s short but rather important comment above... About dreaming of playing, not sitting on the bench.
Because I think too many young players today, more so in non-league, are seemingly content to be a bit-part players in a successful side, rather than starting and playing week in, week out for teams with less kudos or hopes of winning anything, or paying much, if anything.
Call me old fashioned but I’ve always thought, as a player, you don’t usually influence much on the pitch from the bench!
The news this week that Ipswich Wanderers Football Club have ‘suspended’ their players’ budget, meaning if you play for the Humber Doucy Lane club in the Thurlow Nunn League, then you won’t get paid, will test their players’ loyalty to the hilt.
The early signs are that many of the team will stay at the club, knowing week in, week out, they are up against sides whose players are financially rewarded.
That’s a big test of commitment. Many could indeed leave for pastures new and get paid - yes, even if to sit on the bench.
But what do you want from your football?
Back in my day, we just wanted to play.
Who on earth wants to be a sub?
The only money that changed hands were players paying their subs. At least we got an orange at half-time.
In my opinion, today far too many young players, both professionally and at non-league level, see money first and game-time second.
It’s a weak attitude that ok, may make them rich at the very best, or more likely just give them some extra beer money at worst.
It’s an attitude Nick Pope would never have entertained.
Getting plenty of game time was his mantra, that’s why he’s ended up where he is.
It’s that time of year when we all wish we lived in Australia.
The Ashes series for both men and women, the Rugby League World Cup, Rally Australia all to come before Christmas.
We have the Australian Open tennis in the New Year.
Even the Great Britain cycle speedway team are currently Down Under on Tour.
All that sunshine beamed through out TV sets, while we sit in the gloom here in old ‘Blighty.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t emigrate, although I’m not sure I can stop the kids... It’s just, well I love Britain and all it has to offer, including the wonderful sporting calendar.
But who really enjoys closing the curtains at 4pm?
If you are looking for a stocking filler for the football fan in your household this Christmas, could I point you in the direction of Kings of Anglia?
The new edition is out now, £3.99, in supermarkets and newsagents.
Loads of ITFC content, non-league, BBC Radio Suffolk commentator Brenner Woolley gives us the lowdown of how he came to Suffolk. Features on ‘Here Come the Girls’ and the old Green’Un newspaper?
KOA has been really well received, this is issue five, the first four have sold well.
Let me know what you think.
You can order it and previous editions, postage and packing free here...