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'Bring It Don' - Tarky

Defender raring to go for European campaign as Aberdeen tie beckons

24 July 2018

James Tarkowski is relishing the prospect of becoming a European competitor as the clock ticks down towards the Clarets’ return to the Continental stage.

Burnley begin their Europa League campaign at Aberdeen on Thursday night to end a 51-year absence from European football.

And Tarkowski can’t wait to get started as the dream of last season becomes a reality for players and fans alike.

“It’s another tick on your list of everything you want to achieve in football,” the defender told the Clarets’ website.

“I made it to the Premier League, which is nice, got a little bit of international football and then to say you’ve played European football in the Europa League is another achievement, so hopefully I get the chance on Thursday.

“The possibility of Europe was mentioned quite a lot at the start but it’s nice for it now to finally be the next game, rather than the build-up to it, and we can look forward to getting up there, getting into that first game and seeing how it goes.

“We are only going to Scotland, so we are going to face a lot of British lads. But I still think the whole feel of it will be exciting for the fans and for ourselves.

“The lads are really looking forward to it and going to experience a different style of football.”

The Clarets will start the tie as bookmakers’ favourites to progress to a third qualifying-round meeting against Turkish side Istanbul Başakşehir.

But Aberdeen – runners-up in the Scottish Premiership for the past four seasons and winners of the European Cup Winners’ Cup under Sir Alex Ferguson in 1983 – boast a rich European pedigree.

And Tarkowksi will not take the challenge of the Scots lightly as Sean Dyche’s men look to reap the benefits of last season’s hard work.

The Clarets finished above Everton last season to secure seventh spot and a European place

He added: “There’s a lot of excitement, especially from the fans about us going on a European tour, so it would be daft to go and waste it on the first round of qualifying, so we want to go as far as we can. But we have to get past the first game.

“You could come up against side in this competition and it won’t be easy. They are teams who have done well in their league.

“It’s not the Premier League but there some good teams around Europe and Aberdeen have been right up there just behind Celtic for the last few years, so it’s going to be a tough test for us.

“But it’s something we’re all looking forward to. We like to test ourselves and going up there will be a good test.”

Playing over two legs also adds an extra dimension to the tie, with Thursday’s sold-out game at Pittodrie – which is being beamed back live to Turf Moor – followed by the return on 2 August.

Aberdeen have played in the Europa League for the past four seasons

“It’s not something that’s very common in England any more. It’s more of a European thing, so that will be nice as well,” said Tarkowski, a key figure in the Clarets' highest ranking since 1976 as they finished seventh in the Premier League last season.

“Obviously, you’ve got to be careful in that first leg not to get too carried away, even if you concede early.

“There’s still a lot of football to be played, so we’ll look forward to the first leg and coming back to Turf Moor a week later.”

The Clarets have had to tailor their pre-season programme to accommodate the early start to their competitive campaign, with Monday night’s 3-2 win at Preston a third game inside a week.

Tarkowski’s return to training came ahead of the 2 July start for the rest of the squad as the England international worked his way back to fitness following the hernia operation that forced him to withdraw from Gareth Southgate’s World Cup stand-by list.

And the 25-year-old has felt the benefit as he prepares to start his third full season at Turf Moor as part of a Burnley team which has qualified for Europe for only the third time in the club's history.

“It’s been good,” he said. “I got plenty of good work in during the early weeks before the lads came back and then over the last four weeks or so we have been working very hard.

“The lads are feeling very fit, we’ve all had plenty of game time, which is quite nice this early in pre-season, so hopefully everyone is fit and well come Thursday for that first leg.”

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