James Tarkowski believes defensive partner Nathan Collins has the talent to go right to the top.
Collins, a summer signing from Stoke, has stepped into the Burnley backline over the past two months in the absence of injured captain Ben Mee and really caught the eye at both ends of the pitch, earning a nomination for Premier League player of the month for April.
Tarkowski said of the 21-year-old: “Collo’s been exceptional. You forget how young he is because he looks so old but he’s performed to an incredible level considering it’s his first season in this league.
“He’s got huge potential. He’s played a fair few games this year, way more than a lot of lads his age, and played really well. It’s still a learning experience for him, he’s still got time to improve and bring his game on, but the level he’s performing at now at such a young age, he can go right to the top for sure.”
Mee may not feature in the team again this season after suffering a hairline fracture to his fibula but is still playing a key role in Burnley’s fight against relegation as part of interim boss Mike Jackson’s backroom team.
Tarkowski praised his long-time team-mate, saying: “I do like him beside me. He’s dealt well with it because it’s not an easy position to be in. People are calling him ‘skaffer’ because, gaffer or skip, we don’t really know what to call him.
“It’s good for him because he’s still around it. You can get left on the side a bit when you’re injured sometimes but obviously he’s still a massive help to the group. Ben’s a bit too young to be talking about his managerial career yet but he’s been great around the place.”
Many eyebrows were raised when Sean Dyche was sacked last month and under-23s boss Jackson put in charge but the former defender has overseen an impressive revival, with 10 points from four games lifting Burnley out of the bottom three ahead of a clash with Aston Villa on Saturday.
Tarkowski said: “He’s probably not given himself enough praise, I think he’s trying to put it all on us. That’s the kind of person he is. But he’s really just reminded us of who we are, we’ve got a lot of players who’ve been at this level for a long time, a lot of experience and a lot of good players.
“Those details were letting us down but he’s reminded us that we are capable of winning games and performing well and I think we’ve proven that in the last few weeks. He’s been great.”
Tarkowski has been one of Dyche’s most successful signings, making more than 200 appearances since his move from Brentford in 2016 and earning two caps for England.
The 29-year-old said: “We probably got stuck in a bit of a way under the old manager, and it wasn’t the manager’s fault, it was just the way the game sort of went for us. We got very rigid, very predictable, we were easily read.
“Sometimes just that new manager boost that everyone talks about, it’s hard to explain what it is but for some reason it does work. When the manager did go it felt strange at first because we were all so used to the environment we were in but it has worked so for now it seems like it was the right decision.”
Tarkowski’s future was again off the table as a subject for discussion but it seems certain he will leave Turf Moor when his contract expires this summer.
The defender is likely to have no shortage of suitors, and he still hopes to play his way back into the England set-up.
“I’ve not given up on it that’s for sure,” he said. “The ambition’s still there. I’m still young enough and feel like I’ve got something to give so we’ll see what the future holds.”