When you think of the Pope you think of St Peters’, but now it seems another Pope may be moving to the Cathedral on the Hill. Reports are starting to get stronger that Burnley keeper Nick Pope could soon have the Geordie faithful at St James Park as his new congregation.

Reports suggest that a fee of around £8m – £10m is close to being agreed for the England international. A fee that given that Karl Darlow and Freddie Woodman seem to be on their way out of the club, could in reality cost the club next to nothing. And this for a player that ‘minutes’ after Burnley’s relegation was confirmed was touted at costing near to £40 million.

When the transfer window opened what seemed years ago, but in actuality was only just over two weeks ago, going for a goalkeeper seemed low on everyone’s list of positions to strengthen in the clubs first summer window under new ownership. The question will now be, will Pope be coming in as number 1, or will he have to fight current number 1 Martin Dubravka for the starting berth.

Currently as it stands at the club, we have the stand out first choice keeper in the Slovakian international. Darlow has been a decent understudy, but always wobbled in performance once Dubravka was close too or fully fit. Adding an England international to the group of keepers we already have, you can see it being a straight fight between Pope and Dubravka, with neither playing understudy to the other.

Manager Eddie Howe has always said that he wants competition in the squad, and that no one should be guaranteed a starting place. Having two full internationals fighting it out for the goalkeepers jersey can only mean good things for Newcastle going forward. Here you will have two decent men between the sticks pushing themselves to be better by getting the starting place above the other. This in turn will only mean good things for their respective countries, given that Pope will be pushing for a World Cup squad place in the winter.

But what would Pope bring to Newcastle? The obvious aspect would be Premier League experience, and experience on the International Level, with some fans of the opinion that Pope should be starting ahead of current number 1 Jordan Pickford. He is also credited with being a good character to have in the locker room. Something that Howe is trying to implement within his squad and any new signings that come in.

Pope will know the club as well. Having played against Newcastle both home and away since the takeover went through he would have had first hand experience at how noisy St James’ is again, and how much the team has improved under Eddie Howe, and no doubt he would have been in contact with England teammate Kieran Trippier about the club and the locker room.

A look at the stats show, that on the measurables from the Premier league site, Nick Pope is the better keeper. In 141 Premier league appearances Pope has kept clean sheets in 46 of those games, giving him a 32.6% success rate. Compared to Dubravka who has played 127 times in the league for Newcastle, and has kept 37 clean sheets, giving him a success rate of 29%. This would go to show the other stats available on the two goalkeepers that Pope is the better shot stopper.

The England has also made less errors leading to goals, with 5 compared to Dubravka’s 9. Pope also seems to be more adept at claiming high crosses, with 171 “high claims” in his time in the Premier league, whereas Dubravka falls quite short of that at 101. Now as with any stats there have to be a few caveats that come in. Pope has played more games than Dubravka, so you would expect some measures to be higher than the current Newcastle number 1.

You also have to look at the sides they have played in. The passing stats for both keepers tell slightly different stories. Pope has completed more accurate long balls than Dubravka (1249 vs 950). But how many of those accurate long balls landed on the head or feet of current Newcastle striker Chris Wood? Has the fact that Pope has had to make more clearances, take more goal kicks than Dubravka, show the sort of Burnley side he was in?

The bottom line is given our current crop of goalkeepers, Pope is a big improvement on the whole department. It will see the end of Darlow, as I can’t see the former Forest keeper staying around to be third choice at best. Pope offers strong competition for Dubravka, a move that help both keepers reach that next level as they will undoubtedly be fighting to out-do each other.

The issue may be Pope’s age. Being 30 years old you would imagine that he is not a signing for the future. However he is still younger than current first two choices Dubravka and Darlow, and would be a decent building block going forward. Keepers tend to last longer in the game, but I very much doubt should he sign, that Pope would be playing for Newcastle well into his mid 30’s.

But given with most transfer rumours there tends to be a ‘Newcastle Tax’ added to any mooted fee, and with a premium on English players, especially those that have represented their country, signing Pope for the reported £8m – £10m fee, it would be an excellent piece of business.

CARL RICHARDSON – @Carl_TFaith