NICK Pope praised the Burnley goalkeeping union for the role they have played in helping him return to full fitness.

The Clarets stopper made his first appearance since suffering a serious shoulder injury in the Europa League tie at Aberdeen when he returned to the XI for the FA Cup win over Barnsley last weekend.

The 26-year-old kept a clean sheet and said after the game that he was ready to be Burnley's No.1 for the remainder of the season.

But Clarets chief Sean Dyche is expected to stick with Tom Heaton for the visit of Fulham in a crunch Premier League clash this weekend.

And Pope said the Burnley captain had played an important role in helping him on the road to recovery.

Heaton suffered a similar injury against Crystal Palace in September 2017 which kept him out for several months.

He returned to find Pope in possession of the No.1 jersey before he too suffered injury.

"They have been supportive," said Pope of his goalkeeping teammates. "Especially Heats who had the same injury so it's been great to lean on him for advice and experience and everything he went through.

"Adam Legzdins has done both his shoulders too actually so it's been great to talk to those who have been in that situation and been through similar experiences."

Pope had a year of highs and lows in 2018, from breaking into the first team, making his England debut and travelling with Gareth Southgate's squad to the World Cup, to picking up the injury and spending several months on the sidelines.

"It's been a funny old year," added Pope. "Really high with finishing seventh last season and going to the World Cup and then starting this season about three days I was written off for five months of the season or whatever it was.

"It's one of those things that takes as long as it takes. You have to be right and that was the main thing.

"There was no need to rush and you've got to come back when you're ready.

"Otherwise if you can comeback early you injure yourself again or come back and don't perform to your levels and that's not the right thing to do.

"I'm happy now though and happy with the time it took, the physios did a great job with me."

He added: "Injuries are part and parcel and if someone asked me what is the worst thing about football I'd say that.

"I said that six months ago and I say it again now.

"You train to play football and prove yourself with the lads and go out and on a Saturday and give it all to get three points. So to be able to get out there on the training pitch and not playing on a Saturday was tough.

"But it's behind me now and I have to look forward."