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Tarkowski Relishing Heaton Reunion

Clarets' group still strong despite departure of the 'leader'

27 September 2019

James Tarkowski admits Tom Heaton’s departure left a gap at Turf Moor when he ended his six-year stay this summer.

But the Clarets’ defender believes the rest of the squad have been able to fill that void as he prepares for a reunion with the former skipper at Aston Villa on Saturday.

“It will be a bit strange,” said Tarkowski of the prospect of lining up against his one-time team-mate with club and country.

“Heats was a massive part of our group for so long and our leader, to be honest. He was the man everyone went to if they had a problem or needed to talk about anything.

“He was a massive character for us but fortunately we’ve got a lot of big characters in the group anyway.

“That’s probably the biggest part of our group. We have some very good players but the way we are around each other, the way we treat each other and the way we are on the pitch together is probably our biggest strength.

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“And even though we did lose him, we’ve still got that character in abundance in that group, so it’s not quiet.

“Barnesy’s just got to start winding up a few different people because he was all over Heats constantly!

“And Ben has filled in as the skipper, as he was when Heats wasn’t in the team because of his shoulder injury. So, nothing has changed massively.”

Heaton was a talismanic figure at Burnley after becoming manager Sean Dyche’s first permanent signing in May, 2013.

He was also a top-class goalkeeper, who played 200 games for the Clarets and was an ever-present in two promotion-winning teams.

He missed just one game in his first two Premier League seasons with Burnley before returning to the side to play a large part in last season’s successful escape from the drop.

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But with Nick Pope back to challenge for his place and Joe Hart still able to provide top-class competition, the Clarets have also been able to make up for Heaton’s departure on the pitch as they tied up a tidy bit of business for the 33-year-old last month.

“It was probably hard for the goalkeepers last year with the amount of quality we had in the squad and we still have now,” added Tarkowksi, whose own game has grown playing in front of all three of last season’s choices.

“We’ve brought Bailey (Peacock-Farrell) in since then, who’s done really well and is still young with time to learn and grow at this level of the game.

“We had three England goalkeepers at once. Goalkeepers are hard to come by and we had three of the best in the country.

“Heats felt he needed to go and get game-time elsewhere, which he has done and fair play to him.

“I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and seeing a few of the lads. I know he loved his time here but for himself he needed to move on to go and play.”

Heaton has taken on the number-one role for Villa following their promotion back to the top-flight and will be standing in the Clarets’ way at Villa Park as Dyche’s men seek a first away win.

But sentiment will be put to one side by Tarkowksi as he concentrates on trying to put one over his friend and former team-mate and extend the Clarets’ decent start to the season on the back of last Saturday’s slick 2-0 win over Norwich City.

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“I’m looking forward to seeing him but the all-important thing for us is the game and getting the win,” said Tarkowski, who is also facing a reunion with his former manager at Brentford in Villa boss Dean Smith.

“I’m sure the lads will be trying to get in Tom’s head a little bit and wind him up before the game and see if we can affect him.

“But he’s a brilliant goalkeeper, who was terrific for us in the time he was here, on and off the pitch.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him, but the most important thing is the three points.

“It’s a different task going away from your own ground and taking on a team.

“But we are embracing the league at the moment and seem to be putting on good performances and we will be trying to continue that over these next few games.”


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