Heaton applauds impact of veteran defender Duff

Keeper Tom Heaton, pictured in the 1-1 draw at Chelsea, believes Michael Duff is the 'best professional I've played with'.
Keeper Tom Heaton, pictured in the 1-1 draw at Chelsea, believes Michael Duff is the 'best professional I've played with'.
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Goalkeeper Tom Heaton exhausted the use of superlatives when describing the impact of Michael Duff after the long-serving defender returned to Sean Dyche’s starting XI.

The 37-year-old, who had made his last Premier League start in the 2-1 win against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium four months ago, played 90 minutes as the Clarets beat defending champions Manchester City 1-0 at Turf Moor at the weekend.

Michael Duff organises the defence in the FA Cup tie at Tottenham

Michael Duff organises the defence in the FA Cup tie at Tottenham

And his inclusion, which brought up his 350th club appearance, led to a first clean sheet in 15 games in all competitions as the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko, Wilfried Bony and Sergio Aguero failed to make a breakthrough.

“I think Duffo was brilliant,” said Heaton. “That’s not to say Keano hasn’t been, he’s been top drawer. He’s certainly found his feet quickly. I thought Duffo was outstanding.

“He’s worked hard and he’s been excellent in training. He’s been superb to be fair. He gets it right in training, he lives his life well. His performances since I’ve been at the club have been outstanding.

“He was absolutely immense at the back. I think he was valuable with his experience the first time the club went up. He learnt a few lessons and he’s preached a few messages that we’ve all listened to and taken on board. He’s been good with that.”

His performances since I’ve been at the club have been outstanding.

Tom Heaton

Duff, signed from Cheltenham Town for £30,000 by Steve Cotterill in the summer of 2004, has seen his service to the club rewarded with a testimonial.

A series of events, including a celebratory exhibition match in August, will commemorate the elder statesman’s loyalty and achievement, which has included two promotions to the Premier League.

And Heaton feels that the recognition is fully warranted: “He’s been incredible. Fair play to him, he’s seen a few summers has Duffo, but he’s been brilliant. I have to say, credit to him, he’s in brilliant shape.

“Last year, when I first came to the club, he was putting in brilliant performances, and this year he’s been top drawer again. There’s no reason he can’t keep going on, he’s been absolutely fantastic.”

Tom Heaton applauds the fans after victory over Manchester City

Tom Heaton applauds the fans after victory over Manchester City

He added: “His attitude has got to be a big factor. You can’t get away with not being right all the time, especially as you get a bit older. He’s put his roots down and he’s been a fantastic servant to the club.

“I’d probably say that he’s the best professional I’ve played with. He’s played an awful lot of games, he’s very experienced and he understands it well. He’s a brilliant character in the dressing room.”

Meanwhile, Heaton is urging his team-mates to make the City result count.

“It’s a great win for the club,” he said. “It’s just important that we use it in the right manner and kick on again.

“It’s important to keep putting points on the board and keep moving it all forward. The main aim is to keep accruing those points and see where it takes us. We’ll try and make it a successful one.

“It’s tight down there. There’s a lot of teams in the mix. We’ll keep concentrating on what we’re doing, it’s Southampton away next so that’s our focus.”