WHEN Ben Mee glances to the right as the teams line-up for kick-off at Stamford Bridge on Saturday he will realise he is entering a new era as far as his Clarets career is concerned.

Since he made the move from left-back to centre back midway through the 2015/16 Championship season Mee has been stationed alongside Michael Keane for 55 of his 57 league starts.

But Keane’s initial £25million move from Everton has ended one of Burnley’s greatest ever defensive double acts, and Saturday will be new territory for Mee, who flew under the radar last season, turning in a series of eye-catching displays while Keane hogged the headlines.

It was a perfect partnership, a right foot-left foot combination with each displaying attributes that complemented the other, but any suggestion Mee will now be turning into the main man at the back this season are played down, and as a defender three years Keane’s senior the former Manchester City trainee took on plenty of leadership alongside the England international anyway.

“We were a duo but I felt the responsibility last year as well, I was the more senior player of us two,” Mee said of that partnership.

“Obviously he went on to play for England but I felt that we learnt from each other and we did play well together but it’s a new season.

“We’ve got a good solid four that are still there with (Tom) Heaton behind us and one is going to come and slot in as well. Obviously (James) Tarkowski and (Kevin) Long are here.

“I just concentrate on playing well. If the attention and publicity comes then fine. The attention was on Keane (last year) and I didn’t mind, it kind of helped me to just carry on as normal and fair play to him and he’s gone on and it’s fantastic that he’s got a good move and gone on to do really well so far.

“Hopefully he can carry performing at the level he has done. I’ll just carry on and keep playing well.”

Mee has now racked up 216 appearances for Burnley and he took on the captaincy at times last season with Tom Heaton absent.

“I feel like I’m one of the senior lads now, I’ve played here for a long time,” he said.

“I know what it’s about here and I’ve been with the manager a long time so I know what he wants. So anyone that’s coming into the side, I can pass along anything that I’ve learnt along the way and my experience and help whoever is alongside me.”

The battle to partner Mee against the champions on the opening day of the season has been one of pre-season’s intriguing sub-plots.

Tarkowski and Long partnered each other for the final three games of last season and have had their chances this summer, while summer recruit Charlie Taylor, nominally a full-back, has been used in the centre of defence as well.

Sean Dyche could yet add to his collection of central defenders before the transfer window closes, but it looks like Tarkowski will be given his chance to stake a claim first. The 24-year-old has had to be patient since his £3million move from Championship side Brentford in January 2016, making just six league starts and a further five in the cup competitions, but Mee is confident the former Oldham Athletic man can make the step-up and become a fixture in the side this season.

“He’s learned through our training how the club works, how we work,” Mee said of Tarkowski.

“I think it is tough to sit on the sidelines for so long as a young lad. I think it was frustrating for him because obviously me and Keane had a really good partnership and he was just waiting in the wings and he’s a very good player.

“Hopefully he’ll get a chance and take it this season. You can improve in training but you do need that experience in games to bring that other side of your game along. Especially for a defender, making them errors, the judgements, the mistakes, that’s something you need to learn not to do and that’s a big part of being a defender.”

Tarkowski has also been used in the centre of midfield on occasion and his ability on the ball is one of his major assets.

And Mee believes his teammate’s mix of creativity and strength can see him adapt quickly.

Mee added: “On the ball he’s very comfortable and he’s a big strong boy as well so that’ll help. He’ll come into the team and do well if need be.

“He’s looking for a space and he’s been waiting last season to get his chance and he had a few games at the end last season and he’ll be wanting more.

“You get used to playing against these players and knowing a bit about them and you kind of go with it with experience and get comfortable with it.”