Burnley Goalkeeper Nick Pope Reveals How Hard Rise Through Lower Leagues Helped Him Develop

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Nick Pope has seemingly had an incredible rise into the first XI of Burnley,  with the youngster preparing to face up against Arsenal this weekend. 

The Burnley goalkeeper did not think he would ever become a professional football player and when he was released from Ipswitch academy at 16-years old, it was perceived at the end of his career. However, it was the failure of being released which spurred the youngster on to reinvigorate his career, ultimately finding himself at Burnley.

Pope told the Sportsmail "Looking back, it was the best thing that happened - and I had seen it coming.

"I was low on confidence, didn't think I was good enough. I was waiting for the bad news, really. I thought that was it for me, then. I thought it was over."

Pope made his breakthrough when Burnley number one and England international Tom Heaton went down with a shoulder injury against Crystal Palace, in early September. With Heaton contributing to a large deal of Burnley's success last season, many believed it was a big blow to the side.

However, this was not the case as Pope kept five clean sheets in eight league games as Burnley were able to manoeuvre their way to joint-fifth in the table.

For many, release from academy football would spark the end of their career, this is not the case for Pope, who argues that it was the best thing that could have happened as it allowed him to enjoy football again without the added pressure.

"Being out of the academy system, I didn't really have to think about it,' he said. 'I didn't have to worry about whether I was going to get the next contract or whether I would make it. In my head, it was over and I just started to enjoy my football again.

"I was leaving that system where it's very controlled and high pressure and to come out was actually a breath of fresh air.

"Don't get me wrong, I was devastated, but it gave me a jolt and forced a change in my life and football that I probably needed.

"I went to college and there was a football programme there so I met new people, had new coaches, and it gave me new confidence and enthusiasm to play again."

"I can't think of any academy player who'll play that many games," he said. "At Bury Town, I was 16 playing men's football. You meet some people. You go to grounds that are not the best with fans behind the goal abusing you, but I quite enjoyed it - it's so far from what you know. At the academy it's parents shouting at their own kids, but no abuse.

"I didn't get brutalised on the pitch, not elbows or anything, although people would say they'd leave one on me. So it does make you grow up quick.

"Just playing with and against men and what they expect, it was just a new level. It's considered to be a level below the academy but it was just what I needed."

Pope did not have the easiest arrival into the Premier League, with the Englishman playing in League Two as recently as May 2015, which makes his rise to stardom even more inspirational.

"I have always trained hard," he said. "When your chance comes you have to be ready. Maybe that helped but the lads have really helped me. Arsenal are a big team but that's why you want to play in the Premier League, to play against the big teams.

"There is probably a bit of a label around the team but we know what we are," said Pope. "We might score from a set-piece or we might score with 10 passes.

"It was a good quality goal (v Swansea). If you saw Man City do that then you would have every kind of analysis of it."

As Burnley looks to go up against a resurgent Arsenal side this weekend, all eyes will be on Burnley's keeper as he could prove to be the difference between winning and losing the game.