‘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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Total Football - By Matt Law

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

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