BURY Town may have lost a quality young goalkeeper, but manager Richard Wilkins believes the Suffolk non-League club could have just launched a Premier League star.
Charlton Athletic swooped to sign 19-year-old Nick Pope from Ram Meadow this week and as Wilkins wished him well, the Blues’ chief described the teenager as the most naturally-talented player to progress through the ranks at the West Suffolk Sports Academy and Bury Town.
That is some praise from the man who helped oversee moves to professional clubs for Ian Miller, Liam Trotter (both Ipswich Town), Jay Dennis (Cambridge United) and Ben Coker (Colchester United).
“I honestly think Nick Pope can go all the way to the top,” said Wilkins. “It wouldn’t surprise me in five or six years time, when he has built up his core strength and improved his technique, to see him make it.
“That’s how much we rate him at the college and the football club. Looking at natural talent, Popey is probably the best one we’ve had.”
Terms have been agreed between the south London-based npower League One outfit and Bury, with the final contracts set to be signed in the coming days. Part of the deal will see Chris Powell’s charges visit Ram Meadow for a friendly in 2012/13.
Despite the lofty ambitions of his former manager, Pope is keeping his feet firmly on the ground and aiming to impress enough to earn another contract at the end of the two-year deal agreed with the Addicks.
He said: “To go any higher would be great, but I don’t expect to do a Chris Smalling and come out of non-League and end up at the top in two years.
“What I want to do is make a career out of the game for the next 10 or 15 years.
“I’m not joining a struggling team, but a really ambitious club looking to go up.”