Nick Pope v Jordan Pickford: Eddie Howe’s ‘outstanding’ view ahead of Newcastle United v Everton
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With Newcastle preparing to host Everton on Wednesday night (7:30pm kick-off), two of England’s top goalkeepers – Nick Pope and Jordan Pickford – will feature between the sticks for either side at St James’s Park.
Pickford has been England’s first choice goalkeeper since the 2018 World Cup and is expected to start this winter’s tournament in goal for the Three Lions.
Pope has regularly been called up to the England squad and is set to join Pickford on the plane to Qatar despite making a late error in his last outing for his country against Germany last month.
But with Pope and Newcastle boasting the best defensive record in the Premier League going into Wednesday night’s match, the debate as to who should be England’s first choice goalkeeper continues.
And Magpies head coach Howe’s response didn't come as a surprise.
“I’m pleased and proud to pick Nick,” Howe said. “He has been outstanding since he came in. Every game he gives his all, every training session he is a very professional lad.
"I wouldn’t swap Nick for anyone. He has proved in his short time with us what a capable goalkeeper he is.”
On Pope’s England chances, Howe added: “All Nick can do is play well for us and he has for us. At Old Trafford, he didn’t have a lot to do which is a good sign but what he did he did well.”
After keeping a clean sheet in his first match for Everton against Newcastle at St James's Park back in 2017, Pickford has since conceded nine goals in his last four visits.
The former Sunderland goalkeeper has been subject to plenty of taunts from the Newcastle crowd during matches and the goalkeeper has been guilty of letting his emotions get the better of him on occasion.
But Howe wouldn’t be drawn into revealing whether it’s something his side would look to exploit.
“With Jordan, he is a goalkeeper who we respect,” Howe added. “From my side I hope he is very busy and we make him work. Having watched him over a long period of time there is no doubt he is an outstanding goalkeeper.”
Everton sit five points behind Newcastle in the Premier League table and head into Wednesday’s match on the back of consecutive defeats against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Last season, Newcastle beat Everton 3-1 at St James's Park before losing to a 99th minute goal by Alex Iwobi at Goodison Park the following month.
And Howe believes Frank Lampard’s side have improved after narrowly avoiding relegation last season.
“They've made progress, the games we had against them last season were very tight,” Howe continued. “Difficult games for both teams with not a lot in it.
"We anticipate a very similar test but I think they have improved and they have recruited well.
"They've got a real physical edge to their side now and they're a big threat on transitions and set-plays. We're going to have to stand up to that physical test but at home with the crowd, I'd back us to do that.”