Nick Pope: Newcastle goalkeeper achieves an amazing clean sheet record
Newcastle United’s new era of fortunes under their Saudi owners has brought fresh ambition and big spending – but the £10m handed to Burnley for Nick Pope looks like a sniper.
More money may have been spent elsewhere, but few signings anywhere give better value for money than the 30-year-old England keeper and he has proved more than his worth as Newcastle edge closer to the major trophy that has eluded them since 1969.
History weighs heavily on Newcastle and their fanatical support has been joined by huge expectations since he sold Mike Ashley. Now they will be firm favorites to reach the Carabao Cup final after Jolinton’s second-half goal gave them a narrow semi-final first leg victory over Southampton.
It’s been a long, agonizing wait since winning the Fairs Cup at Inter Cities, but hopes are high that the long barren years may finally be over judging by the scenes of Toon Army celebrating at the final whistle.
And at the center of it all was a superb Pope and a spirited defense that refused to give up, providing a solid foundation for manager Eddie Howe’s rebuilding Newcastle.
Pope’s shutdown at Southampton, where he saved two crucial goals from substitute Che Adams with no goals in the game, means he now has an impressive record of 10 consecutive clean sheets in all competitions. According to Opta stats going back to August 2012, this makes him the first goalkeeper with a Premier League club to achieve such a feat.
He has kept 16 clean sheets in 24 matches this season, far more than anyone else, with Manchester United’s David de Gea ranked second with 12 from 27 matches.
Pope gives an air of confidence and assurance behind the Newcastle defence, and this affects the opposing strikers, with Adams not being precise enough to beat the outstretched left foot of the goalkeeper with Southampton’s best chance of the night.
And to add to the list of impressive stats, Pope hasn’t conceded a goal since Newcastle United’s last visit to St Mary’s on November 6, which ended in a 4-1 win for the visitors.
His Newcastle team-mate Bruno Guimarães may have been giddy with the strong stench of victory when he called Pope “the best goalkeeper in the world” in his post-match interview, but there is no doubt he is having a great season.
Pope was included in the England squad for the World Cup in Qatar, where he was considered third choice behind Jordan Pickford and Aaron Ramsdale. Manager Gareth Southgate’s decision to stay on will keep Pickford, deservedly, in pole position but Pope is doing everything he can to make his case.
When Howe was Bournemouth manager, the criticism leveled at him was that for all their attacking draft, he could not support their defence.
The same fee cannot be made now; An outstanding defense was built around the signings of Pope, Kieran Trippier, Sven Putman and Dan Byrne alongside those players he inherited.
This has resulted in what has the potential to be shaping up to be a dream season, with a Wembley appearance, their first appearance in a major final since the 1999 FA Cup, and them reaching the highest levels of the Premier League, finishing third behind leaders Arsenal. Manchester City champion.
And if the goals dry up in recent weeks, Newcastle can still count on this defense, which is the most cunning in the first division, with only 11 goals conceded in 20 matches, with 14 goals lost in 26 matches in all competitions.
It is on this platform that Newcastle thrive and they will be confident of finishing the job against Southampton in front of what is sure to be a frantic crowd on Tyneside for the second leg.