JAMES Tarkowski has hailed Tony Philliskirk’s influence on his rise to the very top.

The highly-respected coach oversaw the early days of the Burnley and England defender’s development when he came through the ranks at Oldham.

Now the pair are both at Turf Moor, Tarkowski a mainstay of a Clarets side that continues to defy the Premier League odds under Sean Dyche while Philliskirk is heading up the academy.

“He’s probably been the biggest influence on my career to be honest,” said the 27-year-old, who has two England caps to his name.

“Not just as a footballer, but as a person with the mindset of how I wanted to live my life and be as a footballer.

“I’ll admit that I was probably a bit soft at a young age and Tony brought that toughness out of me and the work rate, knowing that I needed to work my hardest to be the best that I could be.

“Just as much as the technical and tactical side of things, mentally Tony brought me on leaps and bounds from joining right up until the time I left.

“Working with Tony as a YTS on a day-to-day basis, he just wants to get the best out of you.

“It’s the way you approach the game and being in the right frame of mind to play and that’s something Tony was massive for, for me and for many other lads.”

Tarkowski was reflecting on the early days of his career in Latics’ A Trip Down Sheepfoot Lane podcast series.

His rise to the top flight via a successful spell with Brentford was far from straightforward however.

Having played for Latics as a youngster, he had a spell with Blackburn Rovers that he admits left him considering his future in the game.

But after leaving Failsworth High School he was back with Philliskirk at Boundary Park. Even then though it wasn’t a straightforward passage to senior football.

“I joined Oldham first when I was really young,” Tarkowski said.

“I came through the Under-8s, Under-11s and then left to go to Blackburn for a few years then one of my school teachers ended up bringing me back.

“Tony knew about me already from being there at a young age. That’s how it came about. When I left Blackburn I lost my love for football a little bit and wanted to go and play with my mates but my teacher persuaded me to go back to Oldham for a trial and I ended up getting signed a few weeks later as an Under-16.

“But then I broke my leg in my Under-16 season so I didn’t manage to play much football until it was about April time when I came back and played a few games.

“Fortunately Tony signed me on.”

It is all a long way from the Premier League top 10, where the Clarets find themselves ahead of ending their extended season at home to Brighton on Sunday.

The return to action has been far from straightforward but Tarkowski admits it has made many at the very top of the game realise just what they have.

“It’s been the little things that people take for granted like taking our own drinks in, washing our own kit,” he said.

“We’re not allowed into the building (at Burnley’s Barnfield Training Centre) to have showers which is just an every day thing for other people but we are babysat at times.

“To have those luxuries taken away it was strange. We slowly got used to it. It was packed lunches in the car on the way home and it all brought us back down to earth a little bit and showed we don’t need these luxuries all the time and how fortunate we are to have them.

“I remember going to Gawthorpe as a young kid with Oldham and how it’s changed from when I joined to where it is now it’s come right with the times.

“It’s top of the range everything and we’re very fortunate as players, we’re so well looked after that’s when it’s been taken away over these last few months it’s been hard to deal with really.”