Burnley manager Sean Dyche believes Tom Heaton deserves to be spoken of as a potential England number one.
Heaton was already the goalkeeper with the most saves in the Premier League going into last weekend’s visit to his boyhood club Manchester United, but he left with his reputation even further enhanced.
The 30-year-old turned in a superb show of defiance in the stalemate at Old Trafford, denying the Red Devils on 11 separate occasions and pulling off one particularly eye-catching stop to best Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the near post.
Heaton went to Euro 2016 as England’s third choice and has a solitary three-minute cameo to his name at Three Lions level but he is picking up admirers by the week.
Dyche is an original member of the fan club, having made the keeper his first signing at Turf Moor four years ago, and is glad to see the appreciation.
He is not a manager given to outlandish proclamations and, as such, is hardly likely to call for Joe Hart’s immediate demotion, but his confidence in Heaton is total.
Asked if his player could challenge for the jersey, Dyche said: “It’s a debate point. Tom was superb last week.
“Tom is giving very good performances for us, he’s always looking to improve and develop which is the kind of culture we set here. He was a very good captain last year and continues to be so.
“The maturation of centre-halves and goalkeepers is a big thing. He’s continued year on year to progress and all credit to him.
“His all round game is maturing, I think, no two ways about it.
“But I think England’s number one is chosen by the manager and that’s for the right reasons.”
With a fine sense of timing, Heaton launched a new line of gloves at the club’s Clarets Store on Tuesday and stayed for five hours to meet and greet fans who had lined the streets to meet him.
For Dyche, that is a sign of things heading in the right direction for Burnley as a whole.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “It shows how much the club has moved forward even in the local area, to see them queue up going to see Tom.
“It’s a real good marker for these lads that they’re well recognised, firstly in the local community and beyond that.
“I don’t think this group has ever lacked belief but wins and points help it. Players become accustomed to delivering performances at this level, the feeling of walking into a stadium knowing you can deliver. Some of the self-questioning goes away.”
Belgian midfielder Steven Defour will return for Saturday’s home game with Crystal Palace but full-back Stephen Ward looks certain to miss out with a hamstring injury suffered against United.