James Tarkowski was literally too big for his boots but now the Burnley defender could have the world at his feet

It was only after being cut down to size that he found himself on the long road to the national side.

Burnley ace Tarkowski is one of the new faces in Gareth Southgate’s squad for games against Holland and Italy.

It is a long way from his days at Oldham, from where he was initially sold to Blackburn before being released and brought back.

And Latics youth-team boss Tony Philliskirk revealed the surgery that helped make the 25-year-old into the player he is today.

He said: “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.

“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.

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

Philliskirk signed Tarkowski twice when he was a schoolboy. Once when he was at primary school and again as a 15-year-old when he was ditched by Blackburn after being sold to them at the age of 13.

He also gave him his senior debut after being placed in temporary charge in February 2013.

After progressing and seeing him blossom into a Premier League star, via a move to Brentford, it is the best decision he ever made.

Philliskirk added: “When I was asked to take over, I pulled Tarky in and just said, ‘Whatever happens you’re playing in my team’.

“I always had the utmost faith in his ability as a defender, so again it’s about opportunity.

“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.

“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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