CHARLTON Athletic goalkeeper, Nick Pope, pitched up at his old school on Friday (17) to talk to King’s Ely Junior pupils about his new career as a professional footballer.

The Old Elean, who has just turned 21, spoke of the challenges he faced as an aspiring young goalkeeper before heading off to the school field, where he ran training sessions for pupils with his former PE teacher, David Boothroyd.

Nick also met eight year old Ben Collier, who plays in goal for Norwich City Academy. Like many boys his age, Ben’s ambition is to become England’s number one goalkeeper. Despite missing Nick’s training sessions due to a broken arm, Nick was able to give Ben some top tips to help him achieve his dream, such as training hard, perseverance and having an education to fall back on, to name a few.

The 6’5” goalkeeper made his professional debut for Charlton Athletic earlier this month at home against Bristol City. After 70 minutes on the bench, he was brought on to substitute an injured David Button, helping the team secure a 4-1 victory on the final day of the season.

Nick started playing football for Soham Town Rangers at the age of seven before moving on to Burwell Swallows and then Ipswich. An Ipswich Town season ticket holder, Nick remained at the club until 2008 when he joined Bury Town. Nick was signed to Charlton in 2011 after being spotted by scouts during a 2-1 win over Billericay.

Closer to home, Nick recently played nine matches on loan at Cambridge United and hasn’t ruled out a return to the club.

He was a pupil at King’s Ely, where his mother Bridget has been a teacher for over 40 years, until 2008.

“Nick always loved sports when he was a pupil at King’s,” recalls Bridget. “He has been completely committed to his football career and we are all immensely proud of him for doing so well.”

Nick thoroughly enjoyed his return to the school, especially seeing some of his old teachers. He also found a photo of himself and the rest of the school football team from 2005, taking pride of place on the corridor wall.

“It was great to share my experiences with the pupils and the staff who used to teach me,” said Nick, adding: “Going outside to take training sessions was also a great experience and brought back some happy memories.”

Head of King’s Ely Junior, Richard Whymark, commented: “Nick’s visit demonstrated to our students that their sporting dreams really can come true through patience, hard work and perseverance.  The students were inspired after meeting Nick and we will all be watching his career with interest.  We were thrilled to welcome him back to King’s Ely.”

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