It is often the case in football that one moment can change a footballer’s career in both positive or negative ways. Just ask Aston Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
When Nathaniel Clyne suffered an injury in pre-season before the start of the 2017/18 season, this saw the introduction of Trent Alexander-Arnold. The young full-back has gone on to become one of the best full-backs in the world whereas Clyne played 7 league games for Liverpool in the two seasons that followed. Clyne was sent out on loan to Bournemouth before he joined Crystal Palace in the summer of 2020. Tom Heaton is suffering a similar situation at Aston Villa.
Heaton’s Start To Life At Aston Villa
Tom Heaton joined Aston Villa after an impressive six seasons with Burnley, where he made 200 appearances. Heaton lost his place to Nick Pope due to injury who has gone on to arguably become the best goalkeeper in England.
He joined Aston Villa for £8 million in the summer of 2019 with the club in their first season back in the Premier League since the 2015/16 season. Heaton was the safe pair of hands needed for the club to avoid relegation and was regularly in the England 25-man squad for international fixtures.
During the first six months at Villa, Heaton kept 4 clean sheets for a side in an around the relegation zone.
Against Burnley on New Years Day in 2020, Heaton suffered a season-ending knee injury. During his time on the sidelines, Heaton has overseen Aston Villa avoid relegation on the final day and see the club go on to have an excellent 2020/21 season so far.
Villa currently occupy ninth place, just five points off the Champions League places with two games in hand. They have done so with a new goalkeeper between the sticks.
The Arrival Of Martínez At Aston Villa
Emiliano Martínez signed from Arsenal for £17 million in the summer of 2020 and the Argentine has been impressive. Martínez, 28, has recorded eleven clean sheets in his debut season for the Villains.
Where does this leave Heaton? The former Manchester United and Cardiff City goalkeeper made his return to the matchday squad on the bench during the 3-0 home win over Crystal Palace on Boxing Day.
A return to the squad would normally spark excitement for a player but it is unlikely to be the case for Heaton as Martínez shows no signs of losing his place as the number one choice. It would take an unfortunate sequence of events for Martínez to be replaced by Heaton as the first choice.
This is a shame for someone who was seen as a top goalkeeper in the country. Heaton was regularly in the 23 or 25-man squad, making three international appearances for England.
Heaton has lost his place as the starter for both Burnley and Aston Villa thanks to injury. Villa manager Dean Smith has stated his intent to keep the Englishman, but as talks grow of Championship clubs wanting to sign him and the longer he spends on the bench, it will be a tough ask for Smith to keep Heaton at the club.
Fears of more injuries may affect Heaton’s chances of playing for a top club, which is a sad affair for someone who has always been held in such high regard.