BEFORE he swapped saving goals for scoring them Ashley Barnes was a promising teenage goalkeeper who lists Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel as his hero.

The Clarets striker was still playing between the posts as a budding goalkeeper at the age of 14, a United fan keeping a close eye on Schmeichel's many talents as he tried to replicate his distinctive style.

Barnes rated himself as a talented teenage stopper, although he now admits he couldn't think of anything worse than playing in goal every week.

Instead he swapped one end of the pitch for the other when he moved teams in the West Country, and quickly found a niche as an uncompromising, battering ram of a centre forward, descriptions that stick to this day, although Barnes says he has no problem with being identified in that way.

But the story could have been very different had Barnes remained a goalkeeper rather than a scorer of goals.

"I started off as a goalkeeper, so it was Peter Schmeichel who was my hero," the 28-year-old said of his early years in the game.

"(It was) just how good he was as a goalkeeper. I used to go along to my dad’s football and let the men smash balls at me in goal. It was brilliant."

Barnes remained a goalkeeper until he was 14, playing in age-group above, until he had to drop back down a level and joined a side who already had an established number one.

"I think I was 14, I had to go back down to go with my own age group," he said. "The team I left obviously the new one already had a goalkeeper so I was playing all over the place. It wasn’t until I got to Paulton Rovers and Andrew Jones my old football manager there stuck me up front and it paid off ever since."

Barnes has certainly proved himself a talented marksman, with 14 Premier League goals for the Clarets.

But he insists he could do a job in keeping the ball out of the net as well and although he's yet to don the gloves in his professional career, he is on standby should the situation ever arise.

"I have tried to tell Tom Heaton to take a step back, and not worry, I’ll do this," Barnes joked.

"I was decent. I’ve got enough trophies in the cabinet! I thought I was good back then, now times have changed. I can’t think of anything worse than being a goalkeeper!

"I put the goalkeeping gloves in the bin and tried to find some goalscoring boots. I still haven’t found them now!"

Despite his modesty Barnes has certainly played a crucial role in Burnley's success and his last strike for the Clarets was in the 2-2 draw with United on Boxing Day.

For a player who was still in the non-league ranks at 17 it has been quite a rise and the former Brighton striker gets a thrill from facing opposition of the calibre of the Red Devils.

"It’s not necessarily the players, it’s the stature of the club," he said.

"Manchester United coming town it’s every boys dream to one day play against the best. For me personally it’s a fantastic achievement, I have come so far.

"Always as a kid you think ‘please I just want one game’ and now I have played in the Premier League three seasons."