Clarets boss Sean Dyche isn’t overthinking Saturday’s reunion with one of the major players of his Turf Moor reign.
Burnley travel to Villa Park to take on promoted Aston Villa (kick-off 3 p.m.), knowing they will have to beat Tom Heaton.
Heaton was Dyche’s first permanent signing, arriving on a free transfer from Bristol City in the summer of 2013.
Six years, two promotions, four seasons in the Premier League and a Europa League campaign later, Heaton – captain for four seasons – left for Villa this summer for around £8m, as a regular England squad member.
Dyche doesn’t do nostalgia, however, and while extremely grateful for Heaton’s contribution to the success the club have enjoyed, for him, tomorrow is just another opportunity to try and collect three points.
Dyche said: “I’ve spoken clearly about Tom when he left, he’s a fantastic fella and player, you will only get positives from me about him.
“We’ve come up against various players who have been important for us, Charlie (Austin), Tripps (Kieran Trippier), Shacks (Jason Shackell), Ingsy (Danny Ings), and you know I don’t really do that...I didn’t when I played against my old clubs, or when I’ve managed against Watford.
“It’s just about focusing on the game for me, remembering you have a job to do.”
Villa were among the biggest spenders in the Premier League this summer, with an outlay close to £134m – only a year after a £4.2m tax bill led to the threat of administration, before they were bought out by billionaire owners.
Dyche can only dream of spending that sort of money, as he said: “Over the last few years, the model of football demands success.
“It’s not about the financial structure of clubs, although we’re different.
“I’m nearly seven years in, £500m turnover or so, net spend of about £75m, not including the assets on the pitch.
“Villa have a different model, over £100m spent in one summer, and I’m interested to see how they go.
“It’s still early season, they’re getting used to the demands of the Premier League, trying to piece it together, and I’m always quite intrigued looking at how these models work.”
A lot of Villa’s spend went on players without Premier League experience, with Brazilian forward Wesley signed from Club Brugge for £22.5m, centre back Ezri Konsa from Brentford (£11.97m), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge, £10.8m), Trezeguet (Kasimpasa, £9m), Anwar El Ghazi (Lille, £8.1m), Björn Engels (Reims, £7.2m) and Jota (Birmingham, £4.05m).
Heaton will be a big player in that respect, as Dyche noted: “I presume Tom’s experience is a big part of that (why they signed him), some of their players don’t have a lot of Premier League experience.
“He has definitely got that.”
Villa have only won once in their opening six league games, beating Everton 1-0 at Villa Park, while a defence that let in 61 goals in the Championship has conceded nine so far, scoring only six: “They’ve let a few goals in, I’ve not been watching Tom specifically, but they’ve given a reasonable account of themselves.
“They’ve played with a decent mix, they can get the ball forward quickly at times, and try and play at other moments.
“It’s how quickly they adapt and adjust to life in the Premier League, as we’ve found, you have to roll with all the highs and lows and stay resolute.”
You get the impression many Villa fans feel Saturday is a must-win game, but Dyche added: “I’m sure most fans will consider us as that team they should get points against, but I’m pleased to say it hasn’t always worked like that.
“Villa fans will be saying we are that type of team they should be beating, especially at home, but it’s not always as easy as that when the whistle blows.
“I think that will always be the case for us as one of the smaller clubs in the Premier League.
“But I don’t think the football side of it will be thinking that, I’m sure they will think we’re a decent outfit.
“We just focus on ourselves and trying to put in another good performance.”