Following Manchester City’s 4-1 victory over League Two side Port Vale on Saturday, the City players invited their opponents into the locker room.
The move was a kind gesture of friendship after a hard-fought match given the gulf between the two sides, but Port Vale striker Tom Pope, who scored his side’s only goal in the match, revealed not all his interactions were cordial, including one relatively cold one.
Pope wrote on Twitter last summer about Stones, “Just watched the highlights of the England game! I know I’m a league 2 player, I know he plays for England, I know he’s on £150k a week, I know he’s a million times better player than me but I’d love to play against John Stones every week! I’d get 40 a season! #soft“
That came to the forefront when Pope scored to level the match in the first half, a fabulously flicked header with his body tracking away from goal. He wasn’t directly matched up with Stones – it was actually Man City youngster Taylor Harwood-Bellis he beat on the play – but the moment was enough to send fans into a frenzy about Pope’s comments months earlier.
— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 4, 2020
When asked about any potential interaction between the two in the locker room after the match, Pope confirmed his counterpart still harbors hard feelings about it all. “They all dragged me in, the Man City players, but John wouldn’t speak to me,” the 34-year-old said. “It was a little bit awkward. I shook his hand but he wasn’t too happy.”
And if you weren’t sure Pope was joking about his 40-goal comment from the summer, he’s doubled down after the match, just to pile it on.
Sorry I can’t reply to everyone it’s gone mental! I’d just like to say I was completely wrong and bang out of order to say I’d score 40 a season….. it’s more like 50 😊😊😊 enjoy your weekend 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻
— Tom Pope (@Tom_Pope9) January 4, 2020
“It was only banter and people have dug it up because we’ve drawn Man City,” Pope said after the match. “All of a sudden it’s everywhere and people have been on my case about it. He’s a world-class centre-half. I was just saying he wasn’t very physical and that’s it. If people think I’m wrong, well, I don’t care. I spoke to [Benjamin] Mendy and he said all their players had battered him for weeks about it and they got him that wound up about it, and then obviously I’ve scored and he’s probably devastated.”
Mendy, a known prankster, apparently waited for Pope after the match to take a selfie for their group chat, which Pope joked on Twitter was the “highlight of my day.”