Burnley’s Tom Heaton believes he returns a better goalkeeper each and every time he attends an England training camp.
Heaton has become part of the furniture at St George’s Park since earning the first call for his country four years ago, during Roy Hodgson’s reign.
Since then, when named on the bench for games against Ireland and Slovenia, the 33-year-old has been named in 14 other squads, earning three caps in the process, and was on the standby list for last summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The Turf Moor skipper, who has made 200 appearances for the Clarets in all competitions, has been included in the matchday group in 12 of the Three Lions’ last 33 games, since Gareth Southgate acquired the role of head coach.
And he is one of three goalkeepers, alongside Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland, involved in the latest 23-man squad that will head out to Portugal for the UEFA Nations League Finals this week.
“It’s been really good, I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I’m pleased to be back here, I’ve worked hard to get to this point and from here on in I want to kick on.
“That’s been a feature since my first trip with England in 2015, you always feel like you improve each and every time you come.
“The standard here is excellent, it really is top drawer. It’s always spoken about; the standard of training is so high. That brings more out of yourself and I like being in and around it.”
The former Manchester United stopper has been pushed hard on the domestic front by team-mates Nick Pope and Joe Hart, while goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer has played a key role in helping him return to his best.
That’s been no different away from the Barnfield Training Centre. Heaton faces stiff competition for the England number one jersey, but, with the help of Martyn Margetson, he feels he’s making some inroads.
Ahead of Thursday’s semi-final against Holland at Estadio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes, he said: “You’ve just got to focus on yourself.
“Jordan [Pickford] is number one at the moment and rightly so. His performances for England have been excellent, so for me it’s about having a good few weeks here, make some inroads, and, away from here, put in the level of performances that can help have an impact on that.
“We have an excellent relationship, we all get on. That’s often the case, it’s been very rare in my career where there’s been a strange relationship between goalkeepers.
“Generally everyone has an understanding that we all want to play, we all play for our clubs, we’re all looking to be in the team, but at the same time the manager makes that decision.
“Everyone has that respect, which is important. We’ve all got that support either side of that to do our own thing.
“There are no issues at all, we have a good crack out there. You can see the camaraderie that we have and that competition can only bring out the best in everyone.”