Tom Heaton backs Lionesses, as he reveals how Burnley team-mate keeps him in the know

Thursday 30 May 2019
Tom Heaton says he'll be taking interest in how the Lionesses fare this summer
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England goalkeeper Tom Heaton is backing the Lionesses to build on the feel-good factor around women’s football this summer.

The Burnley captain has been preparing for next week’s Nations League Finals in Portugal at St. George’s Park over the last two weeks, alongside the England Women’s squad who were also at the national football centre.

England v New Zealand
  • Road to France Series
  • 1pm, Saturday 1 June 2019
  • Amex Stadium, Brighton
  • Live on BBC One

And he says he’ll be tuning in to watch Phil Neville’s side during their World Cup campaign, having previously seen a number of their games over the current campaign.

“There’s a real buzz around the women’s game at the moment,” said Heaton.

“It’s great to see, there’s a lot more going on now and you see and hear about more and more girls playing the game and it bodes well.

“We see more of the league games on TV and the World Cup will be the same, so I’ll definitely be watching in the summer.

“I like to watch all of the England teams and I’ve seen a few of the women’s games over the last couple of years. It looks like Phil’s got them well-prepared and playing well.

“They were here at St. George’s Park training with us last week, so it was good to see them around the place when they were at work and preparing for what’s a massive tournament.”

Heaton has been training at St. George's Park, where the Lionesses have also been working

Heaton’s interest in the women’s game is also boosted by his Turf Moor team-mate Chris Wood, whose partner is Liverpool and former England U23 and U17 player Kirsty Linnett.

Not only that, but Wood is also vice-captain of the New Zealand men’s national team and his sister Chelsey played for their nation at two Women’s U20 World Cups.

And Wood’s role as one of the All Whites’ leading players saw him help the Football Ferns earn equal pay as the men, in what was he described as a “massive step in the history of New Zealand football".

“Woody’s a real expert and enthusiast about the women’s game,” added Heaton.

“Chris’s girlfriend, Kirsty, plays for Liverpool and he goes to watch her whenever he can so he often talks about it to the lads at Burnley, and I think we’re all a bit more aware of what’s going on.

Heaton's Burnley team-mate Chris Wood has a long-standing interest in the women's game

“Woody’s also heavily involved with the New Zealand set up and he helped make sure there was equal pay for both the men’s and women’s national team.

“It’s something he’s really passionate about, so I’m sure he’ll be watching Saturday’s game closely.”

There’s a further buzz around women’s football at Burnley too, with the Women Clarets having just secured promotion from the FA Women’s National League North to the Premier League, the third tier in the English league system.

“Yes, they’ve won back-to-back promotions now so that’s been great for them,” said Heaton.

“We’re hoping they can keep rising through the leagues, because they’ve done really well in the last couple of the years.”

Watch the Lionesses take on New Zealand at Brighton’s Amex Stadium on Saturday from £10 for adults and £1 for concessions.

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By Nicholas Veevers