JAMES Tarkowski is coming up against a manager he knows well when Burnley head to Aston Villa.

Dean Smith was the Brentford boss when the England defender forced through his move to Turf Moor in January 2016.

His time at Griffin Park ended acrimoniously, Tarkowski refusing to play a game against the Clarets a couple of weeks before the deal was completed.

Smith had only been the Bees manager for a couple of months prior to the parting of ways but Tarkowski revealed the pair still speak, despite the way things ended for the 26-year-old at Brentford.

"When he joined the club it was a difficult time for me, because at the time I was trying to leave Brentford," said the Clarets central defender.

" I sort of wish it hadn’t gone that way and it was obviously difficult for Dean and myself. But the way he treated me throughout that time means I’ve only got the utmost respect for him.

 "He was very personal towards me and really tried to help me out, even though things weren’t going the way either of us would have wanted. And ever since I left we’ve kept in contact, so I’m very grateful for the way he treated me."

Tarkowski isn't surprised by Smith's rise to the to flight, the 48-year-old joining his hometown club in October last year with Villa then promoted in May via the play-offs.

"I’m pleased to see how well he’s done," he said.

 "For him to be in the Premier league shows how good a manager he is. He went to Brentford and did really well, and it’s great to see him at his hometown club and getting Villa to progress the way they are.

"Fair play to him, and I’m sure he’ll continue doing that."

Smith will not be the only familiar face that Tarkowski comes up against with Tom Heaton facing his former club for the first time since leaving.

Having played in front of the England 'keeper for three years, the defender admits seeing him at the other end of the field will take some getting used to.

"It could be a bit strange," he said.

"Heats was a massive part of our group for so long and our leader to be honest.

"He was the man that everyone went to if they had a problem or needed to talk about anything.

"It was a bit of a sad day really. It’s nice to see him out there week in, week out and enjoying himself.

"From what I’ve seen on Match of the Day he’s made some terrific saves and I’m not surprised by that. But hopefully, we’ll put a few past him at the weekend."

Heaton's departure could have caused problems at other clubs but Nick Pope stepping in has been seamless for Sean Dyche and his side, Joe Hart and new signing Bailey Peacock-Farrell also waiting in the wings.

"I don’t think the club would have let him go if they had any questions about how to replace him," Tarkowski said.

"We already had Popey and Harty, and we’ve since brought Bailey in as well, so we’re strong there. Competition for places is strong all over the park, and no more so than the keepers."