To say it was an eventful weekend for Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope would be something of an understatement.
On the eve of Newcastle’s Premier League trip to Brighton & Hove Albion, the club’s £10million summer signing found himself at the centre of a bizarre social media storm that saw his name trending worldwide on Friday afternoon.
Magpies fans, led by the Toon Polls Twitter account, hijacked a Burger King poll asking whether a tomato or a gherkin was better by responding with Nick Pope’s name.
In turn, @BurgerKingUK and various big name Twitter accounts tweeted ‘Nick Pope’. And McDonalds tweeted that Toon Polls would be sent a ‘maccies breakfast’ if Pope was to keep a clean sheet against Brighton on Saturday.
With the world watching, the pressure on the United goalkeeper to deliver at The Amex Stadium was huge.
But the 30-year-old more than stood up to the challenge as he made a number of impressive saves to keep Brighton at bay and earn a point for Newcastle as the match finished 0-0.
Fully focused on the match, Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe admitted he was oblivious to the fact that his goalkeeper was the most popular name on all of Twitter less than 24-hours before kick-off at Brighton.
“I’ve got no idea [what it’s about]!” Howe told The Gazette. “I don’t really understand it. I only heard about the off the pitch a second ago from Lee [Marshall, head of media], so I had no idea that was happening.
"But I just thought he was top class and he has been since he came to the club. He is a very relaxed figure, very confident in the dressing room.
"He’s got a real calmness about him. The save from Adam Lallana was top class. Not just that save, he made a number of really important ones for us.
"I think he has already showed his importance to us this season.”
Pope insisted his full focus remained on Saturday’s match despite taking part in the social media trend by tweeting out his own name on Friday.
But he didn’t feel under any added pressure to deliver a performance.
Following the match, Pope was asked about Friday’s events.
“It was a strange day [on Friday]," he told NUFC TV. “Doing the notifications on my phone no good but I look forward to seeing some memes later I'm sure.
"All publicity is good publicity! I got off the plane at Brighton and it was just one of those things but you’re concentrating on the game to be honest, it doesn’t really cross your mind too much and it’s all good fun and games.
“I don't think [it put any pressure on me] because it didn’t come from anything, just a bit of a laugh but I’m glad I’ve kept a clean sheet and we've got a good point.”
The point sees Newcastle on four points from their opening two Premier League games for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
Pope is also yet to concede a competitive goal for the club having also kept four clean sheets in five pre-season outings.