Burnley captain Tom Heaton hungry to return to international arena with England

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15:  Tom Heaton of England in action during the international friendly match between England and Spain at Wembley Stadium on November 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15: Tom Heaton of England in action during the international friendly match between England and Spain at Wembley Stadium on November 15, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Gareth Southgate’s attendance at Turf Moor has, understandably, heightened goalkeeper Tom Heaton’s hunger to return to the international scene.

The England boss, who is being earmarked as the next man in charge at Old Trafford, clearly holds the Clarets captain in high esteem having named him on standby for the summer’s World Cup in Russia.

“It was a nice moment, that, having not played for nine months, to be involved with it gave me a real lift,” said Heaton.

“I really enjoyed the two weeks before they set off for Russia. It was difficult on the one hand waving them off, but in the circumstances of where I’d been at, it was a big moment, actually.

“I was really grateful for that in terms of being involved with it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And it certainly gave me a massive boost.”

He added: “You look at it, and of course you want to be involved. You want to be there. But you also have to have the authentic look at it in terms of understanding the situation I was in.

“I was delighted to be involved, and having worked closely with a lot of the players and a lot of the staff, it was brilliant to see them do so well.

“And I could enjoy the atmosphere across the country, and see everyone get behind it. It did feel as if there was a shift, and a real positive shift, so that was brilliant.

“To see them do so well was fantastic. The overriding emotion was definitely a positive one for the whole thing.”

With UEFA European Championship qualifiers coming up in March, where the Three Lions will take on the Czech Republic and Montenegro in Group A, Southgate will be starting to formulate plans for the opening fixtures.

Heaton is hoping to come in to the thinking, with team mate Nick Pope, Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and Alex McCarthy also likely to come in to consideration.

However, the mantra, as it always has been for the 32-year-old, is to take things in his stride and approach games one at a time.

“I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” he said. “I’ve got to say, it’s brilliant to be back out there. Long may it continue.

“But I’m also conscious of making sure I don’t get ahead of myself, that I don’t start thinking too long-term. It’s important that I put the work in, day to day. So that’s what I’m trying to do at the minute.

“Of course, I harbour the ambitions (to play for England again). But I’m very wary of getting carried away. Make no mistake, of course, that’s where I’m aiming.

“But there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge yet. I’m thoroughly enjoying being back out there, and I think it’s important that the focus just stays on the next game.”

Heaton clarified that the competition at domestic level is as fierce as it has ever been at Turf Moor.

While the club has housed three England goalkeepers within its walls since the arrival of Joe Hart in the summer, this will be the first time the trio have all been fully fit and pushing for the number one spot.

Heaton said: “It’s good. There’s a competitive edge. We have a great relationship, the three of us, and Anders Lindegaard and Adam Legzdins as well.

“There’s a strong goalkeeping department, with the five senior goalkeepers. It bodes really well. There’s a competitive edge. It brings the best out of everyone. But it’s nice to be out there.

“We make it work. Billy Mercer manages it well with the different needs for the lads, shooting drills, whatever it is. And yeah, we do manage it.

“Everyone gets what they need to an extent and I think it bodes well, because we’re always working together.”

He added: “Everyone’s got different strengths and weaknesses. You can get the best out of each other and I think we’ve found that so far, albeit everyone wants to play.

“It’s competitive. And that’s how it should be. I think people make more of it than we do. The situation is what it is. The manager picks the team.

“That’s the nature of football. We deal with that. That’s just how it is. There’s no animosity, there’s no difficult situation. We all know the nature of the beast and we deal with it.”