Tom Heaton reflects on his return to the England squad after 18 months of frustration

England goalkeeper Tom Heaton missed out on last summer's World Cup after an untimely injury ruled him out. Now, on the back of a frustrating 18 months, he's back in the Three Lions squad and hoping to help Gareth Southgate's squad to victory in the Nations League...

Wednesday 05 Jun 2019
Tom Heaton has been training with Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland this month ahead of the trip to Portugal

You’ve been back in the squad since March now, how does it feel to be involved again?

Yeah, it’s great, after what’s been quite a journey for me really. I went from starting a game against France in the Stade de France in the June [2017] and that’s when I was really looking to push on and stake my claim for the World Cup the following year.

Then, in the September, I picked up my injury, which was a complicated one and took a long while to get right, and I missed out on a place in Russia. Of course, I was disappointed at the time, but you learn a lot about yourself during times like that and I think I’ve come back stronger, both physically and mentally.

During the first half of this season, I wasn’t playing and you feel like you’re a long way off it, but then since December, I’ve been back in and happy with my form and it’s great to be back. It was good to be back in the squad for the March camp and it felt like I’d never been away and now we’re just looking forward to Portugal.

Heaton returned to the England squad in March after reclaiming his first-team spot at Burnley at the turn of the year

It won’t make up for the heart-ache of missing out last summer, but in a similar way, the Nations League is a new experience for everyone and a good one to be involved with?

Completely. It’s something we’re desperate to go out and win to build on what happened last year and in the season since. It’s a chance to hopefully win a trophy for the first time since ’66 and it’s one I personally can’t wait to be involved in.

There’s four top nations out there all aiming for the same thing, so we know it’s going to be tough. Holland have really picked up over the last year, the success of Ajax this year has helped give them a boost and that game will be a real test for us.

We’re confident in our own squad though, we have a lot of quality ourselves and we’re looking forward to the first game and hopefully going on to the final.

Heaton catches up with Gareth Southgate and James Ward-Prowse in March

There’s been three training camps in the last few weeks, with players joining as and when they could. How’s it been?

We’ve been building up to it and I think it’s been managed well. I had seven days off after the end of the season, as did the other lads who reported for the first camp and it was just about getting us back up to speed and sharpness.

A few more of the boys have reported last week and we’ve stepped things up again, and we’ve been working on more of the tactical side of things with the staff and we’ll be ready to go.

Obviously, there's three goalkeepers aiming for one spot in the team. After the second half of the season, do you feel you've got a good chance of playing?

You’ve just got to focus on yourself really, but Jordan is number one at the moment and rightly so. His performances for England have been excellent, so for me it’s about having a good few weeks and putting in the level of performances in training that can help have an impact on that and make sure whoever plays goes into the game as prepared as they can be. There's an understanding that we all want to play, as we all play for our clubs and we’re all looking to be in the team, but at the same time the manager makes that decision.

We all have an excellent relationship, we all get on. Everyone has that respect, which is important. We’ve all got that support either side of that to do our own thing. We just have a good crack out there in training and you can see the camaraderie that we have and that competition can only bring out the best in everyone.

Watch a video of Tom, Jack and Jordan in training above and make sure you subscribe to the official England YouTube channel for more exclusive videos like this. 

 

By Nicholas Veevers