NICK Pope believes the return to fitness of Tom Heaton can help the Clarets goalkeepers to push each other on as he insists the battle for the gloves won’t result in any bad blood.

Pope has been one of Burnley’s standout performers this season since replacing the injured Heaton in September. With a haul of nine clean sheets in 17 Premier League appearances the 25-year-old has laid down a claim to become the long-term number one at Turf Moor.

But that’s not a position club captain Heaton will relinquish without a fight when he does make his return in the New Year, with Sean Dyche confirming he’s making ‘good progress’ in recovering from shoulder surgery.

Heaton’s return will see the two go head-to-head for the gloves, but Pope insists that won’t result in any issues between the two men.

“It’s a competition. Like you would have at any every club, and there is with other positions, there is competition,” he said.

“We have a great goalie group. There will be no problems I can assure you of that. We have worked together over a year and have a great relationship on and off the pitch. He is a friend of mine.

“So it’s just work hard every day and that’s what we are like. We’ll push each other to make other better.”

Pope is the man in possession at the moment and he’s done all he can to continue in that role.

Dyche has tended to keep faith with players who have performed when their chance has arrived, as with Phil Bardsley at right-back recently, but Pope is aware how quickly things can change in football and he’s determined to stay focused on the job in hand.

“I am playing at the minute, but football, as everyone knows, changes quickly,” he said.

“I’m not going to get complacent. I am going to concentrate just as hard as I did in those first few games in the team. You can get clipped back quickly in this game if you get slack, or take your eye of the ball. I am definitely aware of that.”

Pope’s performances for Burnley have resulted in his name being included in discussion over England’s goalkeeping options for the World Cup in Russia next summer.

The situation at Turf Moor is further clouded by Heaton’s aspirations to win his Three Lions place back as well, but Pope could yet be a dark horse for international recognition in 2018.

“I think that is something that is out of my hands at the moment and I don’t have to worry about,” he said.

“The only thing I have to worry about is Burnley and playing week in week out. Game by game is how we are taking it.

“To have those things spoken about me, in that bracket of player, is really nice. It’s a confidence boost but it’s not something I’ll give too much thought because Burnley is the only thing on my mind.”

Pope’s England claims were recently put forward by pundit Robbie Savage, who claimed he should be on the plane to Russia based on current form.

“That’s nice of Robbie to say that. I have not heard that one, but it’s nice for him to say. I am not going to stop him saying that!,” Pope said.

“But like I said, that’s outside noise which are pleasant to hear. But the plane, it’s a long way off. To be thinking about would be getting ahead of myself.”