At almost any price, Tom Heaton would be a bargain. The Burnley goalkeeper has ensured that his corner of Lancashire won’t be eroded from the Premier League on countless occasions. At Turf Moor, they cheer for saves - as the palms of Heaton prevent tragedy in the form of crushing losses. He’s a soothing presence - a lozenge to aid with defensive woes and shakiness, and now, because of a result of Burnley’s odd goalkeeping crisis - in which three players of quality find themselves battling for a single position - Heaton will likely move to Aston Villa. He will probably end up as first-choice shot stopper at Villa Park to boot.
Ironically enough, it could be that the gloves which have carefully protected Burnley now damn them to relegation.
A two-year deal for Heaton would be a risk-free move for Aston Villa, who will find themselves short on numerous occasions this season, as Sergio Aguero, Aubameyang, Salah and more pounce through to open fields in front of goal. Heaton’s dealt with them all, over and over again to give his Burnley side a chance to remain competitive.
That’s an important distinction, because as good as Heaton is at blocking shots - he raised Burnley time and time again via his mere presence on the pitch. A leader who grew into his role, Heaton took Burnley to the Premier League and back again and kept them at it. He’s beloved and respected by his teammates. It’s a small wonder how he ever ended up fighting for his place - but injuries and form do not discriminate. Nick Pope came good at the right time, and Joe Hart is Joe Hart - persuasive enough via his reputation to earn chances to shine.
Tom Heaton, for a few years, hasn’t had the privileges of youth and reputation to fall back on. He’s had to fight tooth-and-nail for a spot that he had already earned. When he took his spot back at Burnley, the Clarets clawed 28 points out of his 19 games. Considering they ended up with 40 points, just six away from relegated Cardiff City - Burnley’s Premier League status is owed, partly, to Tom Heaton.
It’s not just Heaton though - there has to be a defence - and one that he helps marshal with ease. Moving blockers like chess pieces - Heaton has the ability to ensure he faces as least a punishing shot as possible. The strikers, when they enter Heaton’s world, are out of control unless they can deftly finish through a crowd. Of course, even when that’s possible Heaton’s reflexes can spring to the rescue - if they need too - because he’s probably going to be in the right spot to take on a shot anyway because of his ability to place himself exactly where he needs to be. Great saves are spectacular - but Heaton doesn’t need to perform them often. Why? Because he can organise his defence, he can position himself for a soft easy save and he has the intelligence to know when to stretch.
Villa, if they are to succeed in their chase for Heaton, will gain a quality keeper - who when successful can raise the bar for the entire team; backups included. Jed Steer will gain a lot from competing with Heaton, and will be moulded into a better keeper as a result.
Tom Heaton might be a relatively pricey buy, due to his age - but his clear qualities pay for themselves. He’s an underrated player and one capable of taking Villa to a higher level - and he might be the type of player who keeps them in the Premier League. God knows, he’s done that before.