Nick Pope was absolutely outstanding for Eddie Howe last season, especially when it has since emerged that he played through the pain barrier for a large portion of the campaign.
The decision to bring Pope in to be the new number one ahead of Martin Dúbravka was questioned by plenty last summer, but it might just have been one of the best moves the club has ever made in the transfer market.
The England international only cost £10 million and kept 14 clean sheets in 2022/23. He added a new dimension to Newcastle's back line with his sweeping and demonstrated imperious ability in one-on-one situations.
Made to blush when called the "best goalkeeper in the world" in one post-match interview by Bruno Guimarães, Pope clearly impressed his new teammates as much as his new supporters.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for the giant stopper, though, as it rarely is for those who play in his position. He had to miss the Carabao Cup Final due to a crazy red card he received in the 2-0 home loss to Liverpool, and also had to contend with a finger that kept dislocating throughout the campaign.
As it turns out, it was teammate Matt Targett, perhaps the unlikeliest suspect in the entire squad, who was initially to blame for Pope's ongoing injury issue.
Speaking to George Caulkin for a superb article penned in The Athletic yesterday, Pope spilt the beans:
"I give credit to Matt Targett—he was the first to make it dislocate.
It was a penalty that he was obviously never going to take (in a game), so I wasn’t best pleased! It happened in a game once—against Bournemouth—but the rest of the times were in training."
Pope eventually ended up needing to miss the last game of the season at Chelsea to undergo hand surgery and has spent the entire summer rehabbing from that, saying:
"I’m really happy with it now. The rehab has gone well every step of the way. I’ve had regular meetings with the specialist and the surgeon and was seeing the physio most days, so I’ve always felt like I’ve never been behind in the rehab process. It was slow at times — there are only so many exercises you can do with a finger — and it was a bit dull, but the fact I could have the time off during the summer worked out really well."
He made a noticeable difference when he returned in pre-season, keeping a clean sheet in his first half of football against Chelsea in Atlanta, and making the sort of saves he became renowned for last term.
Here's hoping he doesn't face any injury issues this season as when he's fit and confident, he's easily one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League. He also seems like a superb lad, too, with his friendship with Sean Longstaff being a constant source of amusement in club-produced content since he signed. Meow.
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