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England calls were unexpected - Pope and Tarkowski

Nick Pope and James Tarkowski
Nick Pope and James Tarkowski
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Proud Clarets duo Nick Pope and James Tarkowski admitted their England call ups came unexpectedly.

But both hope to take full advantage of the opportunity, in a World Cup year.

Pope and Tarkowski were both selected for the Three Lions by Gareth Southgate for the first time, after outstanding campaigns, and will join up with the squad on Monday for friendlies with Holland and Italy.

The pair have come up the hard way, Pope having been released by Ipswich Town as a youngster before working his way back through non league to a contract at Charlton Athletic.

And Tarkowski went from Oldham Athletic to Blackburn and back, before moves to Brentford and Burnley.

Pope said: “I feel great, obviously, it’s the top of the game, the pinnacle you can get to, so, to be called up for your country is a massive honour.

“It’s something you don’t really think about, it puts pressure on and it’s pretty unrealistic.

“It’s something that’s not even been in my mind, to be honest, you just concentrate on playing for Burnley and helping the lads put points on the board.

“Just this morning I found out, it was a bit of a shock, to be honest.

“It’s another stage to go and show what we’ve got, there’s no ‘we’ve made it’ about it or anything, it’s another level, another environment, and showing what we’ve got.”

Tarkowski added: “It’s a bit unexpected, but you work all your life to get to these moments. The work doesn’t stop now, there’s a long way to go, just enjoy the moment, but don’t take it for granted, it can easily be taken away from you.

“You work hard all your life, all your career, five/six years ago you’re down in League 1 and you don’t expect to get to this level of the game, so to get that call up was a very pleasing moment for me, my family and friends.

“You always dream of playing for England, but it always seems so far away.

“It’s only been this season that we’ve both got into the team in the Premier League and done quite well as a club - the position in the league speaks for itself.

“The England manager has been down to watch a few of the lads, and fortunately for me and Popey, we’ve got that chance to see what we can do.”

Pope’s story is particularly remarkable, having eight loans at seven different clubs while a Charlton player, having been snapped up from Bury Town: “It seems a long time ago, you don’t think then that this is possible then, it’s so far from your mind, to get to this point is a massive achievement for myself.

“It’s something I’m really proud of, and to share it with my family and friends is something I can’t wait to do.”

Skipper Tom Heaton would have hoped to be in the fight for a World Cup slot himself, having been a regular in the squad since 2015, but a dislocated shoulder in September presented Pope with his chance.

To potentially have two England keepers speaks volumes about the work done at the club, by the players, and coach Billy Mercer: “We have a great bond and goalkeepers’ union here with the four of us and Billy, making us push each other, and it goes to show the quality we’ve got at the club.

“It’s great for the goalkeeping department, it shows how far you can go.”

And Tarkowski believes thee could have been more Burnley players named, with Ben Mee, Matt Lowton, Jack Cork and Ashley Barnes also in good form: “It shows how far the club has come that players from Burnley are getting into the England team, and there’s quite a few lads who could have got the call up.

“Corky got his a few months back, Ben’s done terrific and a few more lads have done well as well.

“But it’s nice for me and Nick to get a little reward and we’ll go and hopefully show what we can do.

“It’s an opportunity to show as a player and a person what you’re all about, and hopefully we can put a stamp on the England team and go from there.

“If you perform well, show what you can do, there’s hopefully another opportunity again.”