As the bids pour in from West Ham United for Burnley centre-half James Tarkowski, what better time than to profile the centre-half, who could end up fetching a hefty fee this summer, with a release clause apparently set an eye-watering £50 million.
A 27 year old Tarkowski may be no spring chicken, but unlike many top flight footballers his rise to prominence came rather later in his career than most.
Now a mainstay in Sean Dyche’s solid Burnley XI, it is safe to say Tarkowski earned his stripes before making it in the big time.
Born in Manchester and with Polish family blood, hence the surname, Tarkowski joined the academy at Blackburn Rovers before his release at the age of 14 at his own request.
Following a spell of toughening up in adult football in the North West Counties league for Maine Road, the no nonsense defender was signed by Oldham Athletic when he left school on a two-year scholarship, and was handed a professional contract in 2011 at Boundary Park.
The now Burnley man’s first taste of pro senior football came on 22 January 2011 when he appeared as a second half substitute for the Latics.
Lower League Sensation
Tawkowski went on to make 89 appearances for Oldham in all competitions, but in truth he was showing signs of a far greater level than the club could offer.
Despite this, Oldham attempted to keep their man by offering him a new contract, before a then League One Brentford came calling in 2014. Soon-after the Tic was a Bee after the two clubs agreed an undisclosed fee and the centre-half put pen to paper on a three and a half year deal.
After playing a bit-part role in Brentford’s promotion to the Championship, it was in the second tier of English football when the Englishman began to show his true potential.
His form across his 57 Championship outings in two seasons brought the attention of multiple clubs, with Sean Dyche’s Burnley ultimately being the lucky side to secure his signature.
On 1 February 2016, Tarkowski signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with a promotion chasing Clarets side for another undisclosed fee.
In truth the defender hasn’t always been first choice at Turf Moor, suffering a watching brief for large portions of his early time at the club, until the departure of Michael Keane to Everton opened up a position in the heart of the Burnley defence, Tarkowski has never looked back.
Since 2017/18 he has played 103 Premier League matches, including appearing in each of Burnley’s 38 games last term, underlining his new found importance to Dyche’s side. No wonder the rough speaking manager is desperate to keep hold of his man.
Having been eligible to play for Poland through his grandfather, On 15 March 2018, Tarkowski was named in the England squad for friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy, making his debut on 27 March at Wembley Stadium starting in a 1-1 draw with the Italians.
A man of currently only two caps, there is no doubt more will come should he continue his outstanding form in the future, wherever he plies his trade.
With reported major interest from West Ham, including two rejected bids to date, and with Leicester City seemingly monitoring the situation, where next for James Tarkowski? If anywhere.
Whilst there is no doubt his form and levels of consistency make him worthy of a move to perhaps the slightly upper echelons of the Premier League, £50 million seems a little extortionate, although for for £10 million less you’re getting half the player Harry Maguire is, and the 27 year old Burnley man certainly isn’t that.
The West Ham link seems a strange one, not because David Moyes’ squad wouldn’t benefit from the centre back, because they would. More because it’s somewhat of a sideways, arguably backwards move for him. Despite the perceived size of the clubs, the claret and blue of Burnley finished a full six places higher than the claret and blue of West Ham last term.
It could easily be argued the Leicester switch is a more desirable, viable and perhaps suitable one. A team who certainly threatened the top four for much of the season, have Europa League football, and will compete in the domestic trophies, is perhaps whereabouts Tarkowski should be aiming.
Ready For The Elite?
TalkSport host Ally McCoist did recently question why some of the big boys in the top flight weren’t making their enquiries, however a crack at the very elite levels may just be one tiny step too far for the twice capped England man.
That said Tarkowski did make the WhoScored.com European team of the season a line-up is based purely on statistics as Burnley kept the same number of clean sheets as champions Liverpool in 2019/20, largely down to that man leading the defence.