NICK Pope revealed that England boss Gareth Southgate has stayed in touch with the Burnley goalkeeper during his spell on the sidelines.

The Clarets stopper made his first appearance for the club since the Europa League tie in Aberdeen when he kept a clean sheet in the 1-0 FA Cup third round win over Barnsley on Saturday.

Boss Sean Dyche said after the game that Pope may have to be patient in his bid to return to the Premier League XI with Tom Heaton set to retain his place for the visit of Fulham on Saturday while Joe Hart is another option.

The Clarets boast goalkeeping riches with three England internationals on their books and Pope, who was named in the Three Lions World Cup squad last summer, said Southgate had kept in touch over the past few months.

“After I got injured and it had all calmed down after a couple of weeks, he rang me and had a great conversation so that was a nice lift at a difficult time,” Pope said of his national team manager.

“It was great to hear from him and throughout the World Cup his man-management was top drawer. It was really nice to get that call. Fingers crossed (I'm still in his thoughts), you have to play games to stay in his thoughts and that's what I have to look to do from now until the end of the season.”

Pope admitted that having three England internationals at one club is a unique situation.

“ Not many people expect that at Burnley or anywhere in the Premier League really,” said the 26-year-old.

“That's the situation we've got and it's up to us to decide who can play and who gets the shirt. We've all got to be pushing each other every day.

“There's great banter between the three of us and we have five senior goalkeepers now with Adam Legzdins and Anders Lindegaard.

“We have high quality all the place - the lads in training don't stand a chance!”

Pope had a relatively quiet afternoon on his return to the side with Barnsley failing to register a shot on target during Saturday’s cup clash.

But the keeper collected vital match minutes having made just a solitary appearance for Burnley’s Under-23s since his injury.

“It was great to be back out there with the lads and pick up a good result,” he added.

“I've been back in training a few weeks now so I felt ready to play. The lads came away with a clean sheet and a win.”

And Pope is now targeting a return to Premier League action.

Asked if he needed a few more games before being considered for a regular starting spot, he said: “You're asking the wrong guy. Who knows? I'm happy with today and I played a reserve game as well so I'm well on the way. I'm happy with where I am. I feel good.”