Ex ECFA college student called up for England national squad

Former West Suffolk College student Nick Pope has been called up to the England senior squad just eight years after starting out in the ECFA national men’s team.

Pope was a goalkeeper for the ECFA in 2009/10 and becomes the first ECFA player to make the senior England squad.

The Burnley FC goalkeeper began his journey under the tutelage of Richard Wilkins, who was head of football at West Suffolk College and manager of non-league Bury Town.

Pope joined Bury Town after being released by Ipswich at 16, and even after joining Charlton Athletic in 2011 had spells outside the Football League at Harrow Borough, Welling United and Aldershot Town before joining Burnley in 2016.

“It’s a fantastic story for everybody who goes into any Academy to know that you can get to the heights that Nick has, with passion, determination and honesty”, said Wilkins.

“It gives them a belief that it can happen and that’s really important.

“It’s fantastic to know that you’ve been a part of someone’s development who has now reached the highest levels. I believe he’s got the attitude, the honesty and the belief to keep going.”

Pope has had a stellar season for Burnley and has been rewarded by being included in the England squad for friendlies against Netherlands and Italy.

“It’s what dreams are made of,” added Wilkins. It would be great if he could get some minutes, I think he really deserves it. Statistically he’s just behind David de Gea at Manchester United so he thoroughly deserves his chance.

“When he came to us, his bio mechanics weren’t fantastic but he was still growing. His goalkicking was very poor and his style wasn’t good so we changed all that and within two years his kicks were going well over the halfway line.

“Nick still had that belief and desire even when he was released by Ipswich at 16. He’s got a really supportive family who keep him grounded. He’s got a great work ethic and always has a smile on his face. He worked extremely hard at every training session at the college.”

“He’s so grounded and down-to-earth, he’s still the same Nick Pope that I knew five years ago. He still contacts all his friends who he was at college with and that shows what a decent lad he is.”

Pope studied Business Level 3 while gaining valuable experience in his footballing career, something which he is grateful for.

He said: “I went to West Suffolk College and played over 100 games for a number of college teams, so to do that for a goalkeeper at that age was the best thing that could have happened. I was really fortunate.”

The ECFA men’s side play on Saturday, 23 March at Nottingham Forest.

The list of current squad members and fixture list is available here.

Photo credit: Burnley FC