Burnley trio fly the flag for Clarets in this year's Euros
When the eyes of the footballing world turn to France, amidst the glitz and the glamour, three Clarets players will be fulfilling their dreams as they represent Burnley on the international stage.
England goalkeeper Tom Heaton, Republic of Ireland defender Stephen Ward, and Wales striker Sam Vokes, will all be heading across the channel this month in search of international glory to accompany their emphatic domestic success, which culminated in their securing promotion back to the Premier League.
With three representatives at the Euros this summer, Burnley have more players at the tournament than the entire Eredivisie – the top division in the Netherlands.
Moreover, the Championship as a whole is the seventh-best represented division in the world, supplying 29 of the players at this year’s finals – seven more than the opulent Ligue 1 in France.
Only Derby County and Reading have more Championship players heading for France this summer than Burnley’s three, with four each, while – of last season’s Premier League clubs – Newcastle United, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Aston Villa also have fewer players at the Euros than Burnley.
All in all, it is set to be an exciting competition for Sean Dyche’s lieutenants at one of the biggest international tournaments in world football.
Goalkeeper Heaton, 30, recently made his debut for England – in a friendly against Australia – having retained his place in the England 23-man squad following a string of stellar performances in goal for the Clarets this season, deemed impressive enough to earn a place in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.
The Chester-born keeper became the first Burnley player to represent the Three Lions for 42 years when he replaced Fraser Forster in the 87th minute, and the first Burnley goalkeeper to earn international recognition with England since Colin McDonald in 1958.
Having started 130 successive league games for Burnley, Heaton has developed into a stalwart of Dyche’s side, racking up 50 clean sheets in his 138 appearances for the club, including 20 in 46 Championship games this season, confirming that – if called upon by Roy Hodgson this summer – he will not let England down.
A vastly experienced left-back with over 300 professional appearances, as well as an international career spanning over five years, Stephen Ward heads to France aiming to improve on Ireland’s last European Championship showing.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s 2012 side lost all three games with the man Burnley signed from Wolves two summers ago playing every minute of the ill-fated campaign, having made his debut in a 5-0 win over Norther Ireland - in which he scored – a year earlier.
But after 24 Championship appearances this year, Ward will be aiming to add happier memories to his 34 caps and demonstrate why he has become one of Ireland’s most consistent performers since his debut as a 25-year-old.
In a team with Gareth Bale, it is hard to shine, but Sam Vokes’ form has peaked just in time for Chris Coleman and Wales, with the Burnley striker netting 12 goals in the final 21 Championship games of the season.
Having featured in six of the 10 qualifiers for the Euros, and only missing the other four through injury, Vokes has averaged a goal or an assist every two games for Dyche’s team this season, and could play a vital role when Wales face Tom Heaton’s England in Lens on 16 June.