Nick Pope reveals a penalty in training from Matt Targett dislocated his finger and insists he doesn’t want Newcastle to be one season wonders in the Champions League
- Nick Pope says a penalty in training from Matt Targett dislocated his finger
- Pope played through the pain barrier before eventually undergoing surgery
- Click here to watch Mail Sport’s brand new show ‘It’s All Kicking Off’ in full
Nick Pope has revealed that it was a penalty from defender Matt Targett that began last season’s injury torment and threatened Newcastle’s Champions League ambitions.
The goalkeeper was forced to play through the pain barrier as his finger kept on dislocating during training and matches.
Pope underwent surgery as soon as Champions League football was confirmed and, after returning to full training in the United States last month, is now ready to start the new season.
‘Once Champions League was assured on the Monday night against Leicester, I was off to Wigan, of all places, to get surgery the next day,’ he said. ‘It was just a finger that kept dislocating too easily, which is not ideal for a goalkeeper! So I had to get it stabilised. I had a kind of anchor put in it.
‘There were probably four or five times over the course of six months where it happened. There was one at the World Cup, one in September and a couple around games after that. Every time it dislocated, it was getting weaker and the joint was getting weaker. It was one of those situations where if I did nothing about it, it was only going to get worse.
Newcastle’s Nick Pope has opened up on his pain as he had to play with a dislocated finger
Pope revealed that it was a penalty from Matt Targett in training that dislocated his finger
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‘I wasn’t pushing it back in – I left that to the doctor. I didn’t really want to look at it to be honest. It would happen, then I would glance down at my hand and then look away. It’s probably not a good thing for your health!’
And the cause?
‘I give credit to Matt Targett – he was the first to make it dislocate in training,’ says Pope. ‘It was a penalty that he was obviously never going to take, so I wasn’t best pleased after that!’
Pope and his back four – Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman, Fabian Schar and Dan Burn – had the joint-best defensive record in the Premier League last season and a picture of the five embracing after one game was hung on the wall of the training ground.
‘They made it into a flag, too, which was nice,’ says Pope. ‘It was a lovely moment – Everton at home, I think. We were brand new last season as a back five, so to strike up a relationship pretty quickly was really beneficial. I really enjoyed playing with them, and they looked after me well.
‘It’s down to a lot of work in training. We put a lot of work into our shape and how we react to certain situations. I think massive credit has to go to the staff behind it, what they drill into us and the messages they get across, whether that’s through analysis on the screen or on pitch time. I think that’s a big part of our success that goes under the radar.
Pope wants to ensure that Newcastle will play in the Champions League on a regular basis
The goalkeeper believes that Newcastle have a good mix of young and experienced players
‘Some things might not be as exciting as playing five-or-a-side, but you realise how important they are for the unit that you know your job and you know other players’ jobs as well. That means you can be very reactive in what you do. If one person presses, then you cover. It’s such a team of cogs moving around. Once one moves, you’ve really got to move with it.’
Pope, at 31, will make his Champions League debut next month, but he is determined not to make it a one-season wonder.
‘It’s about proving it again now,’ he said. ‘You don’t want to play in the Champions League for one year and then dip out of it. Once you’ve got a taste of it, you want to stay in there and improve.
‘I think we’ve got a good mix of players. We’ve got young players who have experience, and older players who form like a British core. Then I think we have a squad togetherness like no one else. We’ve got a great opportunity to kick on again.’
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