Eddie Howe has plenty of big selection calls to make against Nottingham Forest this weekend - but perhaps his biggest is who will start in goal.
It signals a change for both players. Both were No.1s at their respective clubs last season. Now, only one will start the Premier League campaign this time around when the Magpies kick-off versus Forest on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
There wasn’t a lot to separate the pair in pre-season but if you had to pick a starter, you’d guess at Pope. He wouldn’t have signed for Newcastle if he wasn’t given assurances about being No.1, right? The 30-year-old insists that is not the case.
Nick Pope on Martin Dubravka competition
“I don’t think assurances are ever given to anyone, that’s how things get taken for granted,” Pope told the local media in Austria.
It’s clear Pope has bought into Eddie Howe’s way of thinking.
Pope said: “It’s always case of ‘earn your place’ and that’s something that breeds a winning mentality and breeds that will to get better and want to improve.
“That is something that is evident in the squad already here with the characters that are here.
“It’s always nice to have that as a goalkeeper, you want to have competition and train at a high level to push each other. That’s something that is evident here.
“For us as a squad, it’s about each individual trying to claim their shirt. Competition is massive for a successful squad. You want to be competitive in every position.”
How a move to Tyneside happened quickly
Following Burnley’s relegation from the Premier League, the Magpies moved quickly to sign Pope ahead of other clubs.
He explained: “I was aware of it being a possibility a couple of weeks before, and when it was done, it was really quick. I was really hopeful of it happening, so when it happened, I was delighted.
“I’m hugely excited to be here. I feel like it’s something that could take my career to the next level.
“There were other clubs potentially interested but as it got to Newcastle, there was no one else.”
Pope got a taste for St James’ Park as a Newcastle player against Atalanta on Friday night and managed to keep a clean sheet in a 1-0 win.
The former Charlton Athletic goalkeeper had, of course, visited Tyneside before but is looking forward to a very different experience this time around.
Playing at St James’ Park as a Newcastle player
“What? Not hammering me!” Pope joked about Geordie-faithful.” But seriously having them behind me is something I am really looking forward to.
“I have played in night games, days games and the atmosphere at St James’ Park has always been incredible.
“I think that’s something that any player you’d want to be a part of, playing on the biggest stage as much as possible and having that level of support who are pulling in your direction is something that is rare really these days.
“So I am looking forward to experiencing and having them on my side.”
Only on Saturday at 2pm will we know if Pope gets to play at St James’ Park for real in the Premier League opener against newly-promoted Nottingham Forest.