England have nothing to lose by giving Burnley's Nick Pope his big chance, and it could help Everton's Pickford

Gareth Southgate manager of England smiles as he inspects the pitch on the eve of the World Cup qualifying match against Malta at Ta'Qali National Stadium on August 31, 2017 in Valletta,...

Only one England goalkeeper has proven himself worthy of a World Cup start this summer, and Gareth Southgate should not be afraid to throw him in.

Nick Pope of Burnley celebrates his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Burnley and Liverpool at Turf Moor on January 1, 2018 in Burnley, England.

Nick Pope is the unlikely outsider in the four-way battle for the England number one shirt at the World Cup this summer.

The Burnley goalkeeper was scarcely a blip on the radar at the start of the season, but he has been in outstanding form in the Premier League and thoroughly deserves his place in the squad.

As Gareth Southgate ponders which of the four to drop for the final 23-man group and which to hand the gloves to, though, Pope should be considered more than a handy back-up.

He may be yet to make his international debut, but that can work in the 25-year-old's favour.

Nick Pope of Burnley reacts during the Premier League match between Burnley and Swansea City at Turf Moor on November 18, 2017 in Burnley, England.

Pope is the form English goalkeeper right now and, if Southgate were to pick on that basis, as he has suggested in the past, should really be starting in Russia.

The big positive for Southgate, though, is that this tournament is now something of a free hit in this position, with neither Jack Butland nor Jordan Pickford really taking the opportunity afforded by Joe Hart's struggles and Tom Heaton's injury.

England were surely planning for Pickford to become the long-term starter in goal, and that can still be the case, but it may be less risky to select a confident Pope this summer than a young player who has stuttered somewhat.

Shattering Pickford could hurt England in the long term, while there is little to lose by affording Pope the opportunity as both he and Southgate appreciate that he is an unlikely contender in the first place.

Jordan Pickford of Everton during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on February 3, 2018 in London, England.

Pope could establish himself this summer or disappear without trace; either way, it would not harm Pickford.

If Pope was such a disaster in Russia that he looked out of his depth after one game, Pickford or Butland could then step in at that point.

But it would be unfair not to reward the Burnley man's fine form, just as it would be unfair to thrust an out-of-form goalkeeper into the limelight.

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