CUDDLES and coffee helped Clarets captain Tom Heaton cope with his spell out of the side – and the goalkeeper wants to cap his recent run of form with an England call up.

The Burnley skipper missed 18 months with a shoulder injury before picking up a calf problem in the summer.

When he returned to full fitness his path was blocked by summer signing Joe Hart. But Turf boss Sean Dyche opted to recall Heaton for the game with Crystal Palace late last year and the 32-year-old has not looked back.

He has started every Premier League game since, turning in some impressive performances during Burnley’s eight-game unbeaten run, and is set to return to Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad today nearly two years since the last of his three caps.

Heaton has a new perspective on football following his injury, something he admits was tough to deal with.

“I certainly had my moments, I think the manager would probably agree with that!” said Heaton of his mental strength when out of the side.

“It was tough when you care about something and want to affect it.

“It was a real tough learning curve for me. Firstly, I got a real perspective about injuries and the fact that there’s more to life than football. There are other things going on. I got that bit of disassociation which I probably needed.

“The second thing was just how big an impact the dressing room had, that arm around the shoulder.

“I’m the club captain, but you still have moments when you need that. That had a real positive impact. It’s something for me to take on now, having gone through it, with players who are injured and not in the team.

“Most of the lads in there (offered support). That’s a real good example of how they are, different people at different times, talking me through it, whether it is a phone call away from here, a coffee away from here. It is so important.

“I probably wasn’t aware how important it was, having not been through it, but it’s something I’m going to make sure I stay on top of, especially as captain.”

Heaton’s injury saw him miss out on the World Cup with England last summer, Burnley teammate Nick Pope travelling as third choice stopper.

The roles have been reversed since. Pope picked up a shoulder injury of his own at Aberdeen in the Europa League and has played just two FA Cup ties since.

Heaton is now in line to return to the national squad, keen to make up for lost time.

“It’s someone else’s decision if I get selected,” he said. “Of course, it’s something I want to do. I would certainly make the most of it.”

The keeper, who did make the World Cup standby list, added: “I want to kick on from here. I still feel like I’ve got a lot to give.

“I still harbour massive England ambitions, so we’ll see where it takes you.”

“It was tough (missing out on the World Cup). Earlier on with the injury it was easier because you had a path to follow.

“But the closer you get to fitness, I was desperate to get back in the team towards the back end of last season because of the World Cup and prove what I could do, so it got frustrating.

“Mentally you’re there, but physically you’re not quite right. Those are the difficult moments.

“Then I got back fit for the start of this season then had a small calf issue and then you’re not playing in the team again, which was probably the worst of them all.

“I felt great and ready to kick on, but I didn’t have the opportunity to showcase it.”

It’s all change for the former Manchester United youngster now.

An argument could be made for him being England’s No.1, let alone just earning a squad recall, but Heaton will just be happy with a phone call.

“The possibility of an England call-up, it’s out of my hands,” he said.

“But I’d be delighted if it comes.”