Nick Pope told to earn place back as Newcastle United battle set to resume

Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe has insisted that Nick Pope must "earn" his place back in the Toon side after returning to training.

It remains to be seen whether the England international is back in the squad for the clash at his old club Burnley but Howe is getting closer to having a tough decision to make. Slovakia stopper Martin Dubravka is in the side on merit at the moment after some excellent recent displays.

Howe said: "I think when you have a quality player like Nick you are going to miss him. But like Kieran Trippier, you are going to miss a quality player because they have unique skills.

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"But that does not mean somebody else can't come in and benefit the team and do very well. Martin has done very well. I have been really pleased with his strength of character, the team has had some difficult moments and Martin has had to go through those periods with the team. But in recent weeks he's done really well."

Pope will have an eye on Newcastle's last handful of fixtures after being out with a shoulder problem since December. Back then he went off against Man United in the 1-0 win and has been sidelined ever since. But Howe insists he will not be walking straight back into the line-up.

Howe said: "The key thing with Nick is that he's going to have to earn his place back. I'd say the same for any player in any position. No shirt is given to you, you must earn it, that's really healthy for the group."

The 32-year-old keeper also knows that playing for Newcastle has a bearing on his potential England selection this summer. Howe said he can't make a decision based on a player's international hopes.

Howe said: "You'd have to speak to Nick on that. I am well aware of individual needs and goals. I'm not oblivious to that but I always have to make the right decision for Newcastle and the individual. I have been very strong on that in previous moments.

"It is about our team, and our success. You hope the individuals in the team can achieve what they want to."