The stars have truly aligned for Nick Pope over the past six months.
Following Burnley's disastrous start to the season, which saw many tipping them to finally succumb to the dreaded drop, the Clarets have turned their poor form on its head, losing only once in the past eight matches.
Pope has shone in their resurgence and came out on top in a battle between Burnley and Everton, which saw his England rival Jordan Pickford substituted through injury. The Toffees goalkeeper, by the way, has endured a torturous season, dropping a number of high-profile clangers, proving himself to be entirely untrustworthy between the sticks.
In fact, his injury issues in February probably came as a bit of a blessing to coach Carlo Ancelotti, who was able to rotate his shot-stoppers and put his backline's collective mind and panic attacks at ease.
That most recent knock ruled Pickford out of the latest round of Three Lions internationals, resulting in Pope being handed the number one jersey for clashes with San Marino, Albania and possibly the final test against Poland.
Has he seized the opportunity, you ask? Yes, he has. In Pope's six matches between the sticks for Gareth Southgate's side, he hasn't conceded a goal, which, according to Opta, is the first time in England's history that a goalkeeper has achieved this feat.
In short, he's the greatest goalkeeper the country has ever seen. Okay, that's potentially a touch too far. But what is not too far to suggest, however, is that Pope must start the Three Lions' opening match at the Euro 2020 tournament on June 13.
So, why, why oh why, is Rob Dorsett (as cited by TurfCast) reporting that Pope must leave Burnley this summer in order to become the long-term holder of England's number one jersey?
If this is the case, what on earth is Southgate thinking? If this ultimatum is being levelled at the England shot-stopper because he is playing for an 'inferior' club compared to Pickford, lest we not forget that the Clarets finished above Everton in the league table last season.
In fact, Burnley bettered the Toffees' points total in 2017/18 too, finishing an extremely respectable seventh - the coveted 'best of the rest' position.
So, it's time to drop the snootiness when it comes to Burnley and the perception of the club, given they've outperformed Everton in two of the last three seasons, all on a much smaller budget.
Next up on the agenda will undoubtedly be the playing style. "Pope doesn't know how to pass the ball because he plays for a hoof-ball, boring team like Burnley." Look, just because he doesn't play carpet football at club level, it doesn't mean he can't.
Pope showed some great composure in possession against Albania on Sunday afternoon, taking his time with the ball at his feet and picking out the right pass upfield more often than not. He produced a cute little dink from the edge of his box into the path of Kane, who was stood on the halfway line, and never looked fazed by an onrushing forward.
In fact, the stats show that when called upon, the Pope has all the answers. According to stat guru WhoScored, the shot-stopper typically manages less than 50% pass completion when tending the sticks for Burnley, due to the number of ambitious long balls he's asked to propel towards the forehead of Chris Wood.Even if the lanky New Zealand striker is a sniper's dream, you can't always hit your target when he's surrounded by mountainous defenders. On the other hand, Pope has notched a solid 75% pass completion rate for England, where he is required to clip more complicated passes wide to the full-backs, play it short and simple, or occasionally go long to the ever-willing scrapper Kane.
To find your target three quarters of the time when displaying an array of different skills is not bad going at all. Especially for someone who 'dOesN't kNOw HoW tO kiCk.'
If we talk about shot-saving ability, Pope is the standout winner, hands down, no debate. He is the embodiment of calm and assurance, whereas Everton fans will tell you that Pickford gives them the David James's every weekend.
The David James's is defined as that feeling of dread and anxiety one experiences every time a ball enters one's own penalty area, in fear of the goalkeeper completely malfunctioning and doing something usually unthinkable.
That is, that eventually, a goalkeeper appears more likely to have a brain-fart and drop a clanger than actually do his job calmly and efficiently. So if we're all feeling that apprehension from the comfort of our homes, imagine how the defenders on the pitch feel?!
Unfortunately, it's going to take some time for Pickford to rebuild his reputation and return to being an authoritative and reliable last line of defence, and until then, England cannot risk throwing that hand grenade into their penalty area in the blind hope that it won't explode over the summer.
There is only one correct answer to the question, "Who should Southgate start for the Euros?" and that is Pope. And as far as which club he plays for? Well, that shouldn't even be brought into question at all.
Source : 90min