Heaton ready for battle for places at World Cup

Clarets skipper Tom Heaton feels the battle royale to win a place on the plane to Russia 2018 will bring the best out of England's crop of keepers.
Tom HeatonTom Heaton
Tom Heaton

Gareth Southgate is in the fortunate position of having one of the best groups of shot-stoppers to select from in recent memory, as the Three Lions ease their way towards World Cup qualification.

Joe Hart, who recently joined West Ham on loan, remains number one, with Fraser Forster, Heaton, Jack Butland and Everton’s £30m summer signing Jordan Pickford battling it out for three slots.

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Heaton has three caps to his name, having been a squad regular since May 2015, and he said: “I think it's is strong, they're all fantastic goalkeepers.

“That competition will only breed more success and get more out of people.

“I, for one, am looking forward to the challenge and I think it will help the younger lads coming through.

“Hopefully the goalkeeping department will go from strength to strength.

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“It's brilliant to be part of that and I'm embracing the challenge of being part of it.”

The five are all fully paid up members of the goalkeeping union, and Heaton added: “Personally I get on with all of them. I truly wish them all the best. I try to have an intrinsic mentality: it's about what I do not what others do, as that can serve as a distraction.

“Keep trying to raise the bar, keep trying to get better and see where it gets me.

“There’s plenty to work on, just ask the manager!

“I thoroughly enjoyed last season but you draw a line under that, this is a new season and there's quite a few things to work on.

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“I feel I've quite a lot to give in terms of getting better. That's the challenge. My dad always used to say to me 'if you're not moving forward, you're moving back'. I've always got the mind to try and develop.”

Heaton was in France for the European Championship finals last summer, but would love to be in a World Cup squad: “I think the World Cup at the end of the season doesn't go away but to have a chance of being involved in that is through performances week in, week out.

“To do that, putting in the good days, not think too far ahead of too far behind, hopefully that will stand me a good chance of being involved.

“That's certainly the ambition.”

And he knows his place in the squad can't be taken for granted: “No, I don't think any player should ever feel comfortable.

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“At that level it's about being the best in the country at that moment in time.

“Having been involved for two years it's been fantastic, getting my first cap, playing 45mins at Wembley, getting that first start this summer. The one thing it does do is give you hunger for more and I've certainly got that ambition and get more of it.

“Don’t think there's any given right to pull on that England shirt or be in the squad.”

Heaton made his first start this summer in the 3-2 defeat in Paris against France, and it still gives him goosebumps: “It was massive. To pull on the number one shirt, sing the national anthem, incredible.

“It's what you dream of, starting out.

“I loved every minute of it. The result didn't end how we wanted but from a personal level I thoroughly enjoyed it.”