No England keeper playing better than Burnley captain Heaton right now - Cork

Jack Cork watches on as Tom Heaton gathers the ball against Spurs
Jack Cork watches on as Tom Heaton gathers the ball against Spurs
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Jack Cork feels there is no English goalkeeper performing better than Tom Heaton at present.

And he insists the Clarets skipper should be back in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers with the Czech Republic and Montenegro.

Heaton has started the last nine Premier League games, only experiencing defeat once, on Tuesday night at Newcastle, since replacing fellow England international Joe Hart after the 5-1 Boxing Day defeat at home to Everton.

A big character and influence around the club, his presence lifted the supporters, and he played a huge part in climbing away from the relegation zone, with Burnley five points clear of 18th, having been in the bottom three after losing to the Toffees.

Cork is a big fan of Hart, Heaton and Nick Pope, who went to the World Cup in Russia with England, but he said: “Heats is Heats. He is a big personality around the changing room.

“When I first joined he was sort of the poster boy for Burnley, and he was the one everyone was talking about playing for England, and he was just unlucky with his injury.

“Popey came in and was amazing, and Harty was unlucky not to stay in the team because he was playing well.

“That change with Heats is that he just done really well, he has been what he was two years ago.

“He has saved us on numerous occasions and gives us that confidence to know that you are going to be in safe hands.”

Asked whether he should be named in the next England squad, Cork added: “Definitely. If you are looking at English goalkeepers in the league, then there are not many performing better than him at the minute.

“If you are picking on form and with him previously playing for England and doing well then he has got a massive shout for being in that squad.”

Burnley have put themselves in a far healthier position, where a couple of wins from their last 10 games could be enough for survival, but Cork was wary of setting a target: “You never know. Look at last season as an example and you saw how West Brom managed to start picking up results out of nowhere, they beat Tottenham at home, they got some good results against big teams.

“It's just unpredictable, you don't know how the different teams are going to react towards the end of the season if they've got nothing to play for, if they're going to rest players or play young players or if they're just relaxed because they've got no drive.

“You just never know what you're going to come up against in this league and we have to try to get as many points as we can between now and the end of the season.”

Three points against Crystal Palace, who are a place above the Clarets, also on 30 points, would be a big boost, and Cork admitted: “It is a huge game in the season. These are the sorts of games at home we look at and we want to try to get points in. We need to make sure our heads are screwed on and right for it because they are a dangerous team when they're on it and we found out earlier in the season. We need to be a lot more focused and aggressive than we were earlier in the season.”

The defeat at Palace in December was a low point of a poor first half of the season, and the subsequent defeat to Everton left the Clarets staring down the barrel.

It looks a big turning point, and Cork agrees it was: “We got to about December time and played Everton and we lost that game, we got smashed by them.

“We completely weren't at it and I think that was maybe a point for us to really realise that we were in trouble - we were one point above Huddersfield at the time, we had some huge games coming up and we knew we had to change it round.

“For us to do that we had to go back to basics and had to have that good shape and do what we have been doing the year before and really focus on it, and it did work.

“I think that was the real moment where we thought each and every man has to stand up and make a difference here. I feel like we've all pulled together and done that.”

Burnley have always been about the collective, more than the sum of their parts, and comparisons have been drawn with the spirit at the club, and that of Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang, which Cork’s father Alan was a big part of.

Alan spent over 14 years with the Dons, in all four divisions, and won the FA Cup in 1988, beating the “Culture Club” of Liverpool in one of the biggest shocks of all time.

Jack smiled: “I think he will be quite happy you said that. He likes the similarities of it.

“I went to his house recently in Brighton and he had the scrapbooks out and when AFC Wimbledon played West Ham and they showed the cup final after, and I watched that and it was completely different.

“I just watched the build-up to it and saw the Vinnie Jones tackle (on Steve McMahon) in the first five minutes, ridiculous!

“Some of the stuff you get up to then, we are not anywhere near that level.

“I can see similarities, the way they were as a group and went into games and made Plough Lane their home and tough to come, is similar to how we make Turf Moor for teams. No-one really wants to come here and we make it known to people.”