It's a family affair for Burnley goalkeeper
DERBY day is a diary day the second the fixtures come out for all Burnley fans.
But for one lifelong Claret today’s 100th competitive clash with Blackburn Rovers takes on extra significance.
For not only will David Heaton be sampling this Lancashire hotpot for the first time, he will be proudly watching son Tom keep goal for his boyhood team.
“I look forward to every game – not just this weekend – but there is excitement on so many levels,” said David, who will be joined by friends and family at Turf Moor for the lunch-time kick-off.
“I believe it’s World War III! “I’ve been to Cardiff v Swansea games and they are similar. There were more police than crowd!
“But for the players they will want to be treating this like any other game and build on the good start they’ve made.”
Much to David’s delight, Tom is set to play a key part.
When Sean Dyche called the former Manchester United and Cardiff City stopper in the summer to say he wanted to sign him, it felt like fate to the family, and not because the ex-Watford boss had tried to take him to Vicarage Road 12 months earlier.
Born in Burnley, David’s claret and blue roots are well established.
“I first started going to watch Burnley with my grandad when I was five or six,” he said.
“I don’t remember my first game, but I remember standing on the Bee Hole End with my grandad, Fred Heaton.
“My dad was a real, staunch Burnley supporter, but he wasn’t able to go to the games because he spent all of his life working, as did my mum. They did in those days.”
His late dad, Arthur, was a joiner by trade but also helped his brother, Jim, run a furniture shop in the Duke Bar area of Burnley, a subsidiary to his main shop in Nelson.
So it fell upon his grandad Fred to give him his football fix.
“I didn’t have a favourite player. The whole team was brilliant,” said David, 61. The names of Jimmy McIlroy, John Connelly, Adam Blacklaw, John Angus, Alex Elder, Jimmy Adamson and Andy Lochhead tripped off his tongue.
“Jimmy McIlroy walked past me a couple of weeks ago at a game. I didn’t say anything.”
David wouldn’t consider himself starstruck, but even now those legendary figures still hold an aura for fans of most generations, not just the 1960s.
Tom is grabbing the attention of Clarets fans these days, after signing on a free transfer from Bristol City in the summer, a move which led David back to Turf Moor after years travelling the country – and occasionally the globe - watching his son.
As a child, David’s regular Turf Moor trips were sacrificed when the family moved to Nelson.
His mum, Marjorie, ironically hailed from Blackburn but met Arthur while working as a nurse in Burnley General Hospital and moved across the region to marry and start a family, and later run a grocery shop in Scotland Road.
“It was difficult to for me to get there in those days, with my mum and dad both working, and transport wasn’t what it is today,” said David, who switched schools, from St Stephen’s near Towneley Park, to Marsden Juniors then on to Nelson Secondary Technical School when the family moved again to Barrowford when David was 12.
While at university his parents retired to Lytham St Anne’s, so he never went back to Burnley. Instead, after qualifying as a PE teacher, he set up home in Chester, where Tom was born.
The budding goalkeeper, who also had spells in midfield in the early days, teamed up with Wrexham but soon progressed to Manchester United’s youth system and went on to represent England at every age level from Under-16s to Under-21s.
While at Old Trafford he was loaned out to Swindon Town – where he first met Burnley’s assistant manager Ian Woan – Royal Antwerp, Cardiff City, QPR, Rochdale and Wycombe.
He joined Cardiff permanently in the summer of 2010 following his United release, playing in their League Cup final penalty shoot-out defeat to Liverpool – in which he saved from Steven Gerrard – before signing for Bristol City the following summer, after his anticipated move to Watford fell through when the Hornets underwent an Italian takeover.
“Sean came in for him again at the end of last season and we were absolutely over the moon. I’ve always thought I would love him to play for Burnley,” said David, whose commitment to following his son’s career has kept him away from the Clarets. Until now.
“I’ve followed Tom all over. I never miss a game.
“One time when he was with Cardiff in pre-season I left home at 3pm, went to Portugal for a game that evening and was back home for lunch the next day.
“It’s never really interfered with work, but there have been a few close shaves when he was younger and we had to get from our home in Chester for training with Manchester United’s junior teams.
“It was often a challenge when Tom was aged between 11 and 14.”
David has the best of both worlds now, watching his son in goal for his team.
He often thinks what his dad would have made of grandson, Tom, playing for his beloved Burnley.
“I wish he was here to see it,” said David. “He would have been over the moon!”
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