THERE can’t be many games where opposing goalkeepers are both captains of their club, but that will be the case for Burnley’s Tom Heaton and Cardiff City’s David Marshall this afternoon.

“That will make it interesting at the toss,” smiled Heaton.

“Wait ‘til I tell you that I dropped the coin earlier this season.

“It was a few games ago, but I can’t remember which one. It’s still a bit sore.

“Duffo spotted it.”

Eagle-eyed team-mate Michael Duff could afford himself a chuckle. After all, it was a rare line-fluff from the 29-year-old, who since joining Burnley has won promotion to the Premier League, earned four England call-ups, and clocked up 101 consecutive league appearances.

It is a far cry from his Cardiff experience, where for his last season - bar the Carling Cup - he largely had a watching brief behind Marshall, making just one Championship start in his final season in south Wales.

But Heaton feels he might not be the goalkeeper he is today had it not been for that patient waiting game.

“It’s certainly helped,” he said.

“When I was behind Marshy it was about getting better for me, day in day out, so when the time came, whether that was at Cardiff or somewhere else - ultimately it ended up being somewhere else - I was better.

“You have a certain amount of time to work on things and get better and as I wasn’t playing you have more time to train and you can probably allow yourself to do more in the gym, on the pitch, and you’re learning different ways.

“I always had the end in mind, that when the time came I’d be ready to go.

“He (Marshall) is top top drawer. When I first signed there permanently me and him battled it out.

“I played 25 games and he played 20-odd games.

“Then Malky (Mackay) came in and Marshy was absolutely top drawer for that season. I was sat behind him on the bench - frustrating on a personal note but at the same time it was a good learning curve for me, realising that for the 44 games he played - I played two - consistently he was top drawer.

“It was interesting for me that in the bluster and muster of the Championship that you can get someone who can perform consistently at that level.

“It probably opened my eyes a little bit and I used that as sort of a bit of inspiration really moving forward.

“It’s tough. It’s not straightforward but you try to see the bigger picture and then you break that down into the day-to-day, what you’re actually doing to make yourself better and not cruising along.

“That got me through a little bit to be honest.

“I think it all adds into the mix. You try to develop and get better when it’s not quite happening in terms of getting the playing time I wanted.

“It probably makes you appreciate it when you are in the team and not to let it go.

“He’s certainly gone on and taken that to the next level. His performances have got better and better, he went to the Premier League and played really well, and he’s right in there with Scotland at the minute as well.”

Similarly, Heaton has received international recognition since a Premier League season in which he kept 10 Claret clean sheets, including shut-outs against the likes of Manchester City and his former club Manchester United.

The stopper has yet to earn his first England cap, and while that will always be the aim of the ambitious stopper he is nevertheless pleased and proud to be a part of a Three Lions camp that is gearing up for the Euro 2016 finals.

“After the first call-up in the summer I wasn’t sure if being relegated would have an impact in it - historically I think it probably has, and rightly so in terms of the national team. You need to be looking at the players playing at the top level,” he said.

“Thankfully they’ve stuck with me, which I’ve been very pleased about.

“Some things are out of your control, certainly that is in terms of my perspective.

“All you can do is keep trying to perform to the highest level you can and thankfully I think they’ve seen that and it’s been rewarded.

“Looking forward you’re always trying to improve.

“The next milestone for me would be getting on the pitch.

“I have no expectation of that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thinking I should have been or anything like that. It’s just what I want to do, so my ambition is to keep performing, keep moving to the next level and the next milestone.”

Heaton was on the bench for England’s last game, the friendly with France at Wembley days after the Paris terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of 130 people.

And he explained it was an emotionally charged occasion.

“It was quite moving in a lot of respects,” he said.

“Obviously there were tragic events on the Friday night. But on the other hand for the Tuesday night game it was good to see everyone coming together and showing that unified front.

“Everyone understood the nature of it and the importance of the night.

“It was a bit of a weird atmosphere, football takes a massive back seat and there were a lot stronger messages there. And you could feel that really.

“There was definitely an awareness of it, definitely a different feeling to it, but positive ones.

“The main feeling for me coming away from the night was after such tragic and terrible events there was a good positive response.”

Heaton was in Spain with the England squad following the friendly in Alicante when news broke, and amid a desperation to return to England at the earliest opportunity, there were question marks about whether the France friendly should be played.

But the Clarets captain believes it was the right thing to go ahead with the game.

“We had a discussion about it on the Saturday and I think, to be fair, Roy Hodgson the staff, the players and the FA as a whole handled the Tuesday night superbly,” he said.

“It was tough, but under difficult circumstances I thought they did a great job.”