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Tarkowski: England debut felt like playing football with my mates!

Burnley's James Tarkowski and West Ham United's Marko Arnautovic
Burnley's James Tarkowski and West Ham United's Marko Arnautovic

It's fair to say that James Tarkowski was completely relaxed about his England debut.


In fact the Clarets centre back insinuated that his first appearance for his country at Wembley Stadium - the iconic home of English football - was just like playing with his mates.

That's a clear sign of the 25-year-old's progression this term at Turf Moor and it shows that the former Oldham Athletic defender belongs at this elite international level.

Tarkowski, who signed a new contract at Burnley at the start of the year, which ties him to the club until the summer of 2022, was named in a three man defence by Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate for the friendly against Italy on Tuesday evening.

The one-time Brentford man, who made the switch from Griffin Park just over two years ago, played the full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw against the Azzurri, though conceded a dubious penalty late on, allowing Lorenzo Insigne to cancel out Jamie Vardy's opener from the spot.

"It was a great occasion, it probably feels how everyone expects it to feel, a bit nervy, a bit anxious, but once you get into the flow of it it’s just like playing football with your mates again, you get out and enjoy yourself," he said.

"I just try and enjoy myself, if I enjoy myself playing football I usually think I do quite well so I enjoyed myself tonight."

Tarkowski operated on the left hand side of that three, accompanying Kyle Walker and John Stones and he adapted seamlessly to that change in role.

"I enjoyed myself," he said. "It’s the opposite side to what I’ve been playing most of the season so it was a bit of a change.

"But I have played on the left side quite a lot and I enjoy having the ball at my feet, so two things I enjoy. I’m more than happy to play in that system.

"I’d like to think I can adapt to a few different styles after playing under a few different managers at a few different teams now. Hopefully I can show that. Hopefully I did myself justice."

Tarkowski became the club's 28th senior England international, the fourth to be capped during boss Sean Dyche's tenure, and now he's hoping to make a big enough impression on the domestic scene to put himself in contention for the final World Cup squad.

With a place on the plane to Russia at stake, Tarkowski said: "It has been testing. You’re training and playing against the best players in the country so it is testing. It’s how you’re going to improve as a player.

"You test yourself against players like that and I’ve really enjoyed myself. Popey has been terrific all week, he put a stamp down for himself and was unfortunate not to get a cap."

He added: "I’ve always wanted to play for England and that dream has come true. Now I’ve been here for this camp I’ve got a chance [for the World Cup].

"There’s a few players in my position who have also had good seasons and have done well over this last camp. I've got to concentrate on my club football now, do as well as I can there and we’ll see for the summer."