The Business End Of The Season
As the curtain draws on the first international break of 2022, most of the home nations will be pleased. In the eight games played just one was lost by Northern Ireland and Wales edged closer to their first World Cup since 1958 with a win over Austria. England and Scotland will also be happy with their work this week.
Attention now draws to the business end of the season. We now enter the final month of the EFL regular season and the final nine games for most of the Premier League sides. Everything from the Premier League title to relegation from the Football League is on the line.
In this week’s Spotlight we take a look at some of the goalkeepers who have it all to play for at the end of the 2021/22 campaign in each of the four English divisions.
Nick Pope - Burnley
Nick Pope started and kept a clean sheet for England in Tuesday’s friendly with Ivory Coast, but he has a huge month coming up in his club and international future.
His side Burnley languish in 19th and there is real danger of their six-year spell in the Premier League coming to an end. They are still in with a shout of staying up and have 11 games to play, but there is no doubt that Pope and his defence will need to be at their best to be in with any chance.
The 29-year-old also faces stiff competition for his place in the England squad in the build-up to the World Cup in Qatar. Although unlikely to usurp Jordan Pickford, he faces stiff competition from Aaron Ramsdale and Sam Johnstone to name a few for a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad.
Although the World Cup is in the winter, a role in Burnley’s survival battle could make all the difference.
Brad Collins - Barnsley
Barnsley have enjoyed something of a resurgence of late. Having looked dead certs for the drop from the Championship, they have lost just twice in the last 7 games and have beaten the likes of Middlesbrough and Bristol City along the way.
They still sit 5 points adrift of safety, but face Reading on Saturday and could move within 2 points of their relegation rivals.
Barnsley are the lowest scorers in the division and will likely have to rely on a solid defence and goalkeeper to be in with a chance of survival.
Brad Collins has played every game for The Tykes this season and will be needed for a huge final 8 games.
The former Burton Albion ‘keeper will hope to get some more clean sheets under his belt to turn draws into wins and pull Barnsley to second-tier safety.
Michael Cooper - Plymouth Argyle
In just his second season as Plymouth’s number one, 22-year-old Michael Cooper has played an integral part in his club’s unlikely promotion push in League One.
The youngster has already kept an impressive 15 clean sheets so far this term but with Argyle facing 5 of the top 8 in their remaining 6 games, it is likely he will have to repeat that feat on more than one occasion this month.
Argyle are in a great position, sitting 4th, 5 points clear of Oxford and Sheffield Wednesday below them, albeit having played a game more.
Despite their lofty league position, The Pilgrims could not have faced a tougher run in if they had asked for it and Cooper is going to have to keep his nerve and perform to a very high standard to help his team secure a play-off spot.
Nathan Bishop - Mansfield Town
Since Nigel Clough took over in November, Mansfield have been in fine form in League Two and have lost just twice in the league in that time. As a result, they have catapulted themselves into promotion contention, with two games in hand and three points behind 3rd placed Northampton Town.
Part of the former England international’s side has been 22-year-old Nathan Bishop, who is on loan from Manchester United.
Although unlikely to be in with a chance of breaking into United’s first team, Bishop will be keen to perform in the crunch stage of the season and get his opportunity in League One or higher.Given the sheer number of teams battling it out for promotion in League Two, losing is not an option and if the youngster doesn’t perform, it is very likely The Stags will have to go through the Play-Offs.