‘I feel I have been forgotten. I wish I knew what I could do to catch the eye’
James Tarkowski was named alongside Messi and Ronaldo in a European team of the season but England selection is elusive
Tfootball news correspondent he questions circling around James Tarkowski’s head will not have been answered by watching England from his living room.
Joe Gomez performed well against Iceland, but the fact the Liverpool defender gave away a last-gasp penalty and seeing him partnering Eric Dier, who has only recently converted back from being a midfielder, will only have added to the confusion.
Add the possibility of England playing three centre-backs against Denmark tomorrow, Tarkowski not being rated good enough to be in Gareth Southgate’s squad and available for selection, and it is understandable why the Burnley player is not sure what else he can do.
Tarkowski was statistically the best English central defender in the Premier League last season, playing every minute of every game for Burnley – the club who kept the same number of clean sheets (15) as champions Liverpool and bettered only by Manchester City.
It was not only in England that Tarkowski’s statistics measured up well, as he was part of the whoscored. com European team of the season. Based on their statistics, the former Brentford player and Virgil van Dijk were the best centre-backs in a team which also included Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner.
“The screenshot went round my mates and my family,” Tarkowski says. “My mum sent it, and it looks amazing to see your name on that list. It’s something I’m proud of. When you look at the players on that team, they are all world class. It showed I was at a good level, even if people will argue statistics do not show the full picture.”
Given the statistics put him alongside the likes of Van Dijk and Messi, it is understandable why missing out on Southgate’s squad
for the Iceland and Denmark Nations League games was the toughest of Tarkowski’s omissions. He has not played for England since September 2018, when he won the second of his two caps against Switzerland, having made an impressive debut in a draw with Italy.
“I do feel a bit like I’ve been forgotten about,” he says. “That’s nothing against the lads who have been in front of me. I just felt I had a really good season and the statistics looked in my favour. I was in the team who kept the second-most clean sheets, so defensively I was right up there.
“I expected to be closer than I was. Other squads, I had accepted I probably wouldn’t be involved because it was the same squad, but after the break and who was missing, maybe I just expected be in a bit more than previously. This one was more disappointing than others.”
On the accusation from critics that his rivals for an England place are better on the ball, Tarkowski adds: “It is a lazy opinion, in my view. I played a style at Brentford that is maybe the opposite of what I’m playing now at Burnley, so I feel I’ve got a few strings to my bow.
“I think any professional can play a ball to his leftback, get it back and play it back to his keeper. The question is, can he play under pressure? Which I believe I can and I proved it at Brentford. We don’t play as much like that at Burnley, but it doesn’t mean I can’t go into a team who play expansive football.”
Unsure what else he can do over the season to get back in, Tarkowski may consider approaching Southgate for feedback when the time is right as he is still desperate to make the England squad for next summer’s European Championship. “I’ve thought about it when I’ve not made it,” Tarkowski says. “What can I do to catch their eye? I wish I knew the answer.
“Right now, the England team is away and it’s not the right time to try to speak to anybody. But maybe in the future, to try to get some feedback and see where they think I need to improve.
“My goal will still be to be involved in that tournament [the Euros]. I haven’t given up on that.” Tarkowski was the subject of a £20 million bid from West Ham United last Friday but, while not addressing that offer, it appears his sights may be set higher. Leicester City tried to sign the 27-year-old last summer and he is open about the fact that it is a dream of his to play in the Champions League. “Coming into my prime years and wanting to progress, I want to play at the best level I can, club football and internationally,” he says. “I want to test myself against the best. If that opportunity came, I don’t think it is something I could turn down. “Champions League and playing for your country in big tournaments is playing at the top level, so that’s what I would want to do if the opportunities came.”
‘I was in the team who kept the second-most clean sheets. Defensively I was right up there’
Left out: James Tarkowski won the last of his two England caps in 2018 to