​Former England youth coach Tony Philliskirk has recalled the struggles that Burnley defender James Tarkowski has gone through on the road to his first senior call-up last week.

The two worked together several times during Tarkowski’s development, with Philliskirk signing him as a youngster in primary school and then again at 15, when Oldham resigned him after Blackburn Rovers released the defender.

Beaming with pride after Gareth Southgate’s decision this week, Philliskirk mused: “He went through so much adversity. As an Under-16 he broke a leg and, when he was a scholar he had to undergo an operation as his feet were too wide.”

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In an interview with ​The Sun, Philliskirk detailed: “He was in a lot of pain when he was running and so the operation was to basically shave his feet at the side and for a spell he was on crutches.

“He missed a lot of football during those Under-16 and Under-17 years but I’m a big believer that you do learn about the character of young players during these adversities.

“Tarky had to cope with a fair share of those but he came out the other side with flying colours.”

​​The Oldham youth coach also gave Tarkowski his senior debut in 2013, when in temporary charge of the Latics, before leaving for Brentford in January 2014.

He refused to take credit for the 25-year-old’s rise, only remarking it would have been a very different story had he not taken a chance on him and given him first-team football.

​​“I saw a really good player and I just thought he needed the confidence at that time in terms of being told he was going to be playing. Would he be in this situation today without that opportunity of playing regular first-team football in 2013?”

“We don’t know. It’s about learning and he did make mistakes back then, young players do, but he gained that confidence to say, ‘All right, I’ve made a mistake’, and hopefully things like that will have helped in his development.

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“Every one, two or three per cent we’ve been able to help him with, well now he has come out the other side, and to gain full England international recognition is an outstanding achievement from everyone involved.

“I was always adamant about Tarky. I knew he had what it took to make it at League One at least. That’s certainly been proven since.”



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