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In May 2016, Tom Heaton came on as an 87th substitute for Fraser Forster in England’s 2-1 win against Australia at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. In a team that included current loanee Danny Drinkwater, it was the first time I’d ever seen live a Burnley player representing England at full international level.

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Heaton has gone on to make to two further appearances for England. He replaced current Claret Joe Hart at half time in a 2-2 draw against Spain and then played the first half of a 3-2 defeat in Paris against  France before himself being replaced at the interval by Jack Butland.

More recently, In June 2018, Nick Pope made his England debut, also as a substitute, against  Costa Rica at Elland Road, coming on twenty minutes into the second half for Jack Butland. Pope’s appearance, like all of Heaton’s, was in a friendly international.

Last night, Pope got his first England start against Kosovo in the final Euro 2020 qualifier with England already through to th e finals. He had a reasonably quiet night in what ended a 4-0 win for England with three of those goals coming in the final eleven minutes of the game.

Pope said after the game: “My debut in Leeds seems such a long time ago so to come through this and everything that’s gone on in between is a really special moment for me and my family. On a personal level with my injury and everything like that, to play from the start and to play in a competitive fixture as well, it’s another level for myself. I’m just unbelievably proud.”

Three Burnley and England goalkeepers
Three Burnley and England goalkeepers

It’s been a long time coming to see a Burnley player in goal for England in a competitive game. Nick is the first since Colin McDonald lined up in a Home International against Wales and that will be 61 years ago in eight days time.

McDonald’s international career, because of injury, lasted only 192 and included eight appearances with four of those in the World Cup Finals. That final appearance ended in a 2-2 draw with Peter Broadbent (Wolves) scoring both England goals. It also proved to be the final time both Nat Lofthouse and Alan A’Court played for England and provided Danny Clapton with his only cap.

I was fortunate enough to be at Gawthorpe just over a year ago with McDonald, on the occasion when he received the Burnley FC Supporters’ Groups’ Special Achievement Award and met all our England goalkeepers. At the age of 89 he’s still very keenly interested in Burnley Football Club and I know he’ll be as delighted as anyone to see Nick Pope in the England team last night.

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