James Tarkowski admits he is inspired by Michael Keane’s rise to prominence and England recognition.
Tarkowski has found his way into the starting line up barred by Keane and Ben Mee, with the pair ever-present until the weekend, when Mee’s shin problem created an opening.
The 24-year-old stepped up to make his first Premier League start, and impressed, keeping a tight rein on Crystal Palace’s in-form frontman Christian Benteke.
The former Oldham Athletic and Brentford man accepts it has been frustrating – until the weekend, he had spent more time on the bench than any player in Europe’s top five leagues – and said: “A little bit. But I look at what Keano has done – he has got in the England team and there’s a lot of people talking about him around the top six clubs.
“If he can do that I don’t see why I can’t.
“I need to improve a little bit more and get some more game time under my belt, but that’s the target for me.”
Tarkowski lined up alongside Keane, helping keep a 10th clean sheet of the season: “I felt good. I had 45 last week and felt a bit rusty, but I felt quite good. It’s probably to do with the fact we sat in and dealt with a lot of long balls.”
Keane is expected to move on in the summer, with forfmer club Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool, Manchesterr City and Chelsea all linked with the 24-year-old, so there could be a permanent vacancy come next season: “I’ve got to come back in the right shape to challenge for that, and then hopefully it will be mine.”
Tarkowski has had to be patient, but he hasn’t been alone at the club this season.
A number of players stepped up to the plate at Selhurst Park, including Jon Flanagan and Ashley Westwood, and Tarkowski added: “There’s me and a few other lads who are in the same position, we’ve struggled for minutes this season, but day in day out we graft and we work hard and it showed. Look at Flanno coming on, and he puts in a performance like that which shows how hard we work in training.”