Newcastle United appointed Dan Ashworth as their sporting director ahead of the 2022/23 campaign and the ex-Brighton chief was a busy man throughout the summer transfer window.
He moved quickly to bring in Nick Pope, Sven Botman, Matt Targett and Alexander Isak in on permanent deals to bolster Eddie Howe’s first-team squad, whilst also snapping up Loris Karius on a free transfer after Karl Darlow sustained an injury.
Speaking on Ben Foster’s podcast (35:00), Pope’s former manager Sean Dyche described him as a “monster” and a “basketball star” because of his huge frame and he has used his body to deny opposition forwards throughout the season so far.
He turns 31 in April and some of the younger shot-stoppers at the club should be looking at him as a role model as they attempt to make the breakthrough at first-team level.
Howe may already have the heir to Pope’s throne between the sticks at St. James’ Park in 19-year-old goalkeeper Jude Smith, who was brought in from East Fife in the summer.
“The games he’s played in, the first was Norwich away he was thrown in the deep end to an extent, and even in that game he kept the score down. The other games he’s played, he’s done terrific.
“He’s come in and hit the ground running, but there’s still lots for him to learn. He hasn’t been here long in terms of how we want to play and what we want to do, and I think he’s getting there which is a credit to him and all of the staff who are around him.”
Smith excelled in the EFL Trophy when he was tasked with playing against professional teams. He averaged a SofaScore rating of 7.20 across three appearances – against Lincoln, Barnsley, and Doncaster – as he saved 75% of the shots against him.
The 19-year-old is in the infancy of his career but he is already showing that he has the quality to impress at senior level, having also played 25 matches in the third tier of Scottish football last season.
He should now be doing his best to soak up as much information and guidance from Pope as he can so that he can fulfil his potential and progress through to the senior squad at St. James’ Park.
Smith is on the right track, having impressed Dickman and put in strong performances in the EFL Trophy, and Howe could unearth Pope’s heir in the future by aiding the teenager in his development over the coming years.