Rio’s rating helps defender Keane grow in confidence!

Clarets defender Michael Keane celebrates his goal against Bristol City at Ashton Gate

Clarets defender Michael Keane celebrates his goal against Bristol City at Ashton Gate

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When Champions League winner, six-time Premier League victor and former England captain Rio Ferdinand is singing your praises then you know you’re doing something right.

The one-time Manchester United defender, who made a record-breaking £30m move to Old Trafford in 2002, hailed Clarets defender Michael Keane as one of the best young centre-backs in the country alongside Everton’s John Stones and Spurs’ Eric Dier.

Burnley’s joint leading scorer, who has netted three times alongside striker Sam Vokes, acknowledges that the 36-year-old has placed him among esteemed company with Stones the subject of a rebuffed £37m offer from Chelsea in August while Dier is a first team regular at White Hart Lane.

“It’s nice,” said Keane. “When I was coming through at United, Rio was always the one helping me. He was always great with the young lads. To see him rate me and put something out like that can only give you confidence. I’ve been away with England with them and they’re both doing really well.

“I think I’m coming on leaps and bounds which comes with games and consistency. I’ve been working on that and I think I’ve played well this season. There’s still things I can improve on and I’m working every day in training to do that.

“The gaffer and the other lads are always talking to me and telling me what I can do better so I think I’m only going to improve.”

I think I’m coming on leaps and bounds which comes with games and consistency

Michael Keane

The 22-year-old added: “I’ve had some experience of playing in the Championship before through my loan moves so I knew what to expect.

“From last year I feel I’ve grown physically and got stronger, I know how to cope with the strikers better, and I’m playing in one of the best teams in the league now which helps as well. I’m enjoying it.

“It’s great playing alongside somebody with that much experience in Duffo too. He’s always talking to me and telling me where to be. If I make a mistake, even if it’s just my positioning, he’s on to me all the time. I’m learning every day.”

The Toffees are reportedly one club monitoring Keane’s progress at Turf Moor, with Goodison boss Roberto Martinez believed to be expressing an interest alongside Newcastle United boss Steve McClaren, who snapped him up on loan during his tenure at Derby County. However, Keane insists that he’s happy where he is.

“It’s not unsettling at all,” he said. “I tend not to read stuff like that. My friends will tell me things but I don’t read in to it at all. I’m really happy at Burnley and I want to stay here. The club and fans have been brilliant with me.

“I want to stay here and get the club back to where it belongs - in the Premier League. We’ve brought a few great players in who weren’t here last year and kept most of the squad.

“There’s a lot of experience and a lot of quality so if we can keep everybody fit then we’ll be near the top at the end.

“Burnley gave me the platform to showcase myself and show my talents in the first place. The gaffer showed great belief in me in the Premier League and I played a lot of games last season.

“I’ve come in this year and I feel like one of the main men here so I’m really enjoying it and the fans seem to like me. I couldn’t be happier.”

While the 22-year-old is no longer eligible to represent Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions, he’s hopeful that one day his performances will help him to follow in the footsteps of former team mate Danny Ings.

“It was a great two years and I really enjoyed playing for England,” he said. “I thought I was a bit unfortunate not to play in the Euros in the summer but I don’t have any complaints because I really enjoyed it. I’m a bit older now so I’ll have to aim for the seniors.

“Ingsy got his first call up. There’s a lot of players at this club who have shown you can do it. I don’t see why I can’t do that eventually.

“If you’re playing regular games and doing well then the England set up will come and watch you. You’ve always got a chance.”