TOM Heaton has labelled Joe Hart as his Burnley player of the season so far despite dislodging him in the Clarets team.

The Turf skipper was restored to the line-up by boss Sean Dyche for the visit of West Ham on Sunday and responded with a clean sheet and three points as Burnley eased to a 2-0 win.

Heaton will hope to keep his place for Wednesday night's crunch trip to Huddersfield Town as the Clarets seek to climb out of the Premier League's bottom three.

The 32-year-old and Hart are close friends but Heaton was full of praise for the way the former Manchester City stopper handled being dropped.

“I had his backing 100 per cent and it was the same the other way around," said Heaton. "Him and I go back a long, long way. We sit next to each other in the dressing room at the training ground, we’re very good pals, and what I like about us is that we both deal with the situation as it is.

“He’s been absolutely brilliant in difficult circumstances for him.

“I think for me, despite everything that’s gone on, his performances have been excellent."

Heaton added: "We've struggled for results and performances at times and when he gave me the nod it was an interesting one.

"Despite those facts I actually think that Joe has been my player of the season so far.

"It's sometimes difficult to see that through the results and the goals going in but that's my opinion.

"It's an interesting one and I feel for him to some degree.

"These are the challenges that footballers face sometimes, these things come across us, I've had a bit of it myself over the past 15 months.

"I'm delighted to be back out there, since I was given the nod I've been buzzing, singing and dancing while doing the dishes."

For Heaton it was a first start since September 2017, when he dislocated his shoulder against Crystal Palace while Hart missed a Premier League game for the first time since joining the Clarets.

But he celebrated Heaton's late save from Andy Carroll's header on the sidelines and the starting stopper felt that indicative of the pair's relationship.

"I’d like to think I’d have done that for him, and he’s certainly been incredible for me.

“There’s a massive amount of respect, and we both know that.

“There’s no animosity. You couldn’t be any further from any animosity, there’s just support and respect. We both know that it’s the business at times. It’s just how it goes."