FORMER Clarets centre back Michael Duff believes James Tarkowski is benefitting from months of hard work on the training ground - even if he does blame him for ending his own playing career.

Tarkowski and Nick Pope were included in an England squad for the first time on Thursday for friendlies with Holland and Italy, capping fine seasons for the pair at Burnley.

The arrival of Tarkowski for £3.5million from Brentford midway through the 2015/16 campaign accelerated the end of Duff’s playing days, with the Northern Ireland international hanging up his boots at the end of that season after 383 games for Burnley as the advance of the younger men in Michael Keane and Tarkowski gathered pace.

Duff, now in charge of the club’s Under-23s, has watched Tarkowski develop into one of the Premier League’s outstanding central defenders, having replaced Michael Keane this season when the latter moved to Everton for £30million, and Duff believes he is more than worthy of international recognition.

“Tarky finished my career. I met him in a restaurant about three weeks after he signed, I was out with my wife and we bumped into him and I introduced him as ‘this is James, he’s the bloke that’s ended my career’,” Duff joked.

“He had a little laugh about it but he didn’t know to take it, he didn’t know me at the time, he’d only been at the club a couple of weeks.

“He’s a good player and I think coming in and taking over from Keano, he was the latest one on the conveyor belt and there’s always been one waiting in the wings.

“He didn’t start initially (after signing), he had to bide his time, learn what it takes to be a Burnley centre half, but Keano has walked out, he’s walked in and he’s taken it on again.

“I think it shows the work that goes into the players on the training ground, but ultimately they have to go and deliver, it’s the fruits of their labour.”

Tarkowski is the latest central defender to improve under the guidance of Clarets chief Sean Dyche, who took Keane to the next level as well as bringing on the career of Ben Mee.

Duff himself impressed at the back under Dyche and the current U23 boss believes the organisation in the side is key to helping the central defenders impress.

“All over the pitch there is a structure and as a centre half it’s a hell of a lot easier when there’s a structure to your team,” he added.

“Keano’s having a difficult time at the minute at Everton because it doesn’t seem to be as organised, but ultimately Tarky has taken it on and he’s proved himself to be good enough.

“How far he can go only he will know.”

Tarkowski is joined in the England squad by Pope and Duff praised the work of Burnley goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer, who was also key in Tom Heaton’s rise to international honours.

“I think it tells you a few things,” Duff said of the call-ups. “It tells you something about the manager, he can pick a player.

“If you look at the work Billy does with the goalkeepers, he’s taken Tom Heaton from Bristol City and turned him into an international goalkeeper, now he’s taken Popey from Charlton and he’s not an international yet, but he’s made huge strides.

“It shows they can pick and develop a player, it shows how much the club has moved forward, which is represented in the league table. The knock-on effects of that are things like international recognition and it’s nothing but positive news for the club really.

“It’s an add-on to the success the club is enjoying.”