New Premier League star Nick Pope didn’t forget Bury Town roots after making Burnley debut
New Premier League star Nick Pope ensured he didn’t forget his roots after making his top-flight debut for Burnley at the weekend.
The 25-year-old replaced the injured Tom Heaton during the Clarets’ 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday and made a crucial stop from Christian Benteke, to keep the home side’s lead intact.
Pope was a youngster at Ipswich Town but was released as a 16-year-old and went on to play part-time at Bury Town, whilst studying at West Suffolk College, under the leadership of current Needham Market boss, Richard Wilkins.
Wilkins gave Pope his bow at Bury, well aware that scouts from Charlton Athletic were monitoring the Soham-born youngster, who eventually moved to The Valley in 2011.
Pope went on to make 38 appearances for the Addicks during a five-year spell there, before joining Burnley last summer.
A delighted Wilkins said: “Nick sent me a text message on Monday reminding me that when he left (Bury Town), to join Charlton, I said he would be playing Premier League football in five years. It took six but I am delighted for him!
Wilkins, who managed Bury for 14 years, added: “He (Pope) was always unorthodox, not your classic keeper.
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“He was a bit like Pat Jennings, Neville Southall, Peter Schmeichel where he had the ability to save shots with all different parts of his body.
“He showed that on Sunday when he saved with his foot from Christian Benteke.
“His kicking wasn’t great when he first started, he could barely clear the 18-yard box, but he has improved that now through listening and hard work and I am really glad he has got his opportunity.”
Pope’s brother Josh, is also a talented goalkeeper, currently playing for Soham Town Rangers, and Wilkins says the goalkeeper has a strong network of people behind him.
“He is a very confident lad and he always has a smile on his face,” explained Wilkins.
“He is the sort of person you like to have a conversation with, his parents really support him, and his brother is a very good goalkeeper too,
“The Charlton goalkeeping coach (Ben Roberts) deserves a lot of praise too.”