Skipper gets his safe hands on trophy at last

PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS. Tom Heaton with the trophy
PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS. Tom Heaton with the trophy

His manager spoke all season of his “clean hands” and Clarets skipper Tom Heaton put them to good use to hoist the Championship trophy aloft.

Heaton was consistency personified as he recorded 20 clean sheets en route to winning the title, and he celebrated his first season with the armband by raising “The Lady” at Burnley Town Hall in front of an ecstatic crowd on Monday night.

The England man’s season potentially isn’t over as he awaits Monday’s squad announcement to see whether he will be flying out to France with the Three Lions for Euro 2016.

And if he gets the nod, he’ll go there full of confidence having not tasted defeat in 23 league games with the champions.

He looked back on a remarkable campaign: “It’s incredible.

“When he (Sean Dyche) passed me the armband late in pre-season it was a proud moment for me, an honour to have the armband for this football club, and to make it a successful season is brilliant.”

Heaton had to wait to lift the real thing, as the Football League ridiculously decreed Burnley couldn’t receive the trophy after beating Charlton on the last day, settling instead for an inflatable from the away end, and he smiled: “We were really disappointed not to do it at Charlton.

“We struggled to understand that they couldn’t have found some way of doing it.

“But it is what it is and we made the most of the inflatable. It’s nice to get the real one.

“(The inflatable) will go down in history.

“We wanted to lift something, we thought we deserved it, coming top of the pile in that division is tough.”

Burnley were promoted as runners-up two seasons ago, in Heaton’s first year with the club, and this promotion is a bit sweeter: “Two years ago was incredible but this time it’s better for me because it’s harder.

“We had more challenges, it was tighter, it was mentally tough at times but I thought we stood up to all of that really well.

“It was another challenge losing a few players, it was a different dynamic, we had more players, it all adds into the mix.

“We embraced it, the manager set his stall out, we followed and thankfully we were successful.”

And the big league is where everyone wants to ply their trade: “We all know that’s where everyone wants to be playing as a footballer.

“It’s the top division in the world for me and we’re delighted to get there.

“I’d like to say I’ve not thought about but I’ve been thinking about it all season, that’s where we want to be.”

Now he awaits Roy Hodgson’s announcement, with the chance then to become Burnley’s first full England cap since Martin Dobson in 1974, with three friendlies before Euro 2016.