Burnley's Tom Heaton on playing for England: 'I never lost that belief'

The ambition to play for England never left goalkeeper Tom Heaton, even after failing to make the breakthrough at Manchester United saw him drop down the leagues.

Now 31, Heaton will make his first Three Lions start against France in Paris on Tuesday, crowning a career that has taken in not just Old Trafford, but Swindon, Antwerp, Cardiff, QPR, Rochdale, Wycombe and Bristol City.

Now at Burnley -- where he has been since 2013 -- Heaton has excelled and shown just why he was so highly rated by United in his early days.

"Obviously I have played across all four divisions, the ambition never left me,'' Heaton said.

"That hunger to play for England. It might have felt, for other people, a long way off at certain times, playing down in League Two, but I never lost that belief.

"It is a different sort of journey to a lot of lads, but I am proud of that journey. Started at United, left, went away, sort of worked back up to the Premier League. I wouldn't change it.

"It is what it is. I like to think it stands me in good stead in terms of the experiences and perhaps the mental side of it.''

Almost every player will list playing for their country as a childhood ambition and for Heaton the story is no different.

Now, after doing so twice as a substitute, he will get the chance to experience being a starter.

"I think when you set out in a career in football, playing for England encapsulates what you sort of visualise,'' he added.

"I am certainly no different to that. Belting out the national anthem with the shirt on will be a fantastic moment.''

Heaton comes in to replace Joe Hart, whose omission was planned but comes at a time when the Manchester City outcast finds himself at a career crossroads.

"I try not to have too many expectations really,'' Heaton said of getting the nod from boss Gareth Southgate.

"You know I try and work as hard as I can day in, day out. The manager is there to make decisions. I am obviously delighted that he has made that decision now and look forward to the game.''