NICK Pope believes his long injury lay-off gave him time to sit back and reflect on his whirlwind time.

The man between the sticks admitted it was hard to keep his spirits up at times, but always tried to think about how he could improve when he did make his return.

Pope kept a clean sheet in Burnley’s opening Premier League fixture on Saturday as they beat Southampton 3-0 at Turf Moor.

“I watched nearly all of my games back and looking at things I can do better,” said Pope.

“I played 35 games that season and think about what gave me that success over the time and what I could take from that and bringing it forward for me.

“I learnt from other goalies, I still watched a lot of football and learn from other people.

“That’s another thing that helped me along the way and made me believe I would play football again.

“It gave me time to reflect on things. It was a crazy year getting called up for England and playing for them and then going to a World Cup. “It all happens without a breath and goes by in the blink of an eye.

“It gave me time to reflect and that was a big part of my recovery and rehab – looking at how I can become a better player when I do come back.

“That light at the end of the tunnel, you’ve got to strive to play Premier League football again. I just had to look after myself and make sure I was in the best position I could be in.”

This was the England international’s first start in the Premier League since May 2018, he was happy to be back with a clean sheet.

“I got reminded it was 400 and odd the days the other day, it’s good to be back. To come back like that is really special,”

“The lads have shielded me well in tough conditions, it was difficult to get going in a sense. The lads looked after me really well and I helped them out when I could.

“I feel better than before; I don’t think about it when I wake up in the morning. It’s in the past now, so I’m glad to get it behind me.”

Pope spoke about the help ex-Claret Tom Heaton gave him when he was recovering from the shoulder injury.

“Tom did a similar injury nearly exactly a year before, so to have him in the building was really helpful for me especially going through the similar steps.

“I got to speak about what I was going through and when I felt different things, when was the finishing line – that sort of thing.

“He helped me a lot. It was so fresh in his mind as well.”

In the 36 appearances Pope has made in the Premier League, 12 of them have been clean sheets - including the one in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over the Saints.

The goalkeeper highlighted how he doesn’t think about the season where he made 11 clean sheets for Dyche’s side and wants to make new memories this campaign.

“I don’t think about that season too much, I’ve got to come back and be better than that season and use it as an experience,” said the goalkeeper.

“I start again and that counts for nothing now.

“Two years is a long time in football, I need to leave it behind me and create new markers with this season this season.”

Next up for Pope, and Burnley, is a trip to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday as they face a tough test against Unai Emery’s Arsenal side - who won 1-0 away at Newcastle on Sunday in their opening game of the season.

A clean sheet there would be some achievement for the Clarets goalkeeper.