Published 13 May 2022 6 min read
England Men's Senior Team

'It was really tough'... Nick Pope opens up on EURO 2020 heartbreak

Written by:

Frank Smith

Presenter Adam Smith sat down with Nick Pope and John Stones as part of Mental Health Awareness Week

Nick Pope has opened up about the heartbreak of missing EURO 2020 as part of an interview to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.

Pope was enjoying his best run in the England team in the lead up to EURO 2020, starting in all three of the Three Lions’ World Cup qualifiers in March 2021.

But it was decided that a knee injury which required surgery could not wait any longer and the Burnley goalkeeper was ruled out of the historic tournament.

Pope, who turned 30 in April, was at Wembley Stadium connected by EE alongside his dad when the Three Lions were within a few penalty kicks of lifting their first major trophy since 1966 and whilst the former Charlton Athletic man acknowledges how difficult it was to miss the tournament, he was able to take solace in seeing his team-mates achieve so much during the campaign.

Injury meant Nick Pope had to miss out on England's EURO 2020 campaign
Injury meant Nick Pope had to miss out on England's EURO 2020 campaign

He said: “It was really tough. I think you break it down and realise that the tournament was a once in a lifetime thing, with it being a home tournament - obviously now hopefully there will be one in about six years [with the bid for the 2028 EUROs] but I don’t know if I'll still be about then. 

“You realise that a home tournament at a EUROs really is a once in a lifetime thing and just going to a tournament in general, you might only get three or four in your career that you even play in that you're able to go to if you're available.

“So myself in that situation, it was what it was; I needed the surgery, I couldn't have played without doing it and it needed to happen. It's just the timing of it was just not ideal. But that is part of life and a part of football is how you react to that sort of thing and realising that it won't be the last bad thing that happens to me, and to kind of make the most of it.

“I was lucky enough to go to the final and watch the boys and very much enjoyed the journey that they all went on from afar and I knew what a great group it was, both on and off the pitch.

“I was so sure of how good a tournament they would have, it was great to see that kind of come into fruition.”

Nick Pope has eight England senior team caps
Nick Pope has eight England senior team caps

Pope was speaking alongside John Stones during an interview with presenter Adam Smith as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

The week-long campaign happens annually, and this year’s theme is that of loneliness, where people are being encouraged to build meaningful connections with friends, family, colleagues and communities.

The event aims to raise awareness of the links between poor mental health and loneliness, with the hope it can provide safe and welcoming spaces for people to talk and support each other.

It is also hoped the week could be a catalyst to help upskill people in being able to use technology to stay in touch with their loved ones and also to create an army of volunteers to support those who may be feeling lonely.

People are being asked to actively check in on those around them at work and in your community, and to actively encourage more people to do the same.

Nick Pope is hoping he will have the chance to play in more major tournaments with England
Nick Pope is hoping he will have the chance to play in more major tournaments with England

The topic of loneliness was discussed as part of the interview with Smith.

Pope said: “I think being a footballer, there are a lot of positives and you want to have that appreciation for that and have the gratitude that you are a professional footballer, which so many people dream of doing and you have the opportunity to do that.

“But being a footballer, it still doesn’t mean that it is all rosy every day of the week. You still go through spells when you are losing games and spells where you are not playing so well.

“As a goalkeeper, especially, if you make a mistake and it ends in a goal, then you have all of the eyes on you and you feel like you are on your own out there and all those thousands of people watching you, but you feel on your own.”

He continued: “It is something which goes back to your character really and how you respond to things and it is something which you can always work on.

“Growing up as a goalkeeper, you have made mistakes your whole life which have resulted in goals and it is about practising how you react to things like that and putting it to the back of your mind and concentrating on what happens next. That is something which has stood me in good stead.”

10 May 2022 13:26

Stones and Pope discuss mental health challenges


England stars John Stones and Nick Pope sit down with Adam Smith as part of Mental Health Awareness Week

If anybody reading this is struggling or concerned about somebody close to them, we’d encourage you to reach out, start off small and have that first conversation. There is always somebody who cares, who can listen, and who can help.

For additional support you can contact the Samaritans, which offers 24/7 support, or Calm between 5pm-midnight. And for more information and advice, you can also contact mental health charity Mind.

Samaritans: Call 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
Calm: Call 0800 58 58 58
Mind: Call 0300 123 3393 or email info@mind.org.uk