PA Nathan Collins challenges Phil Foden of Manchester City in a Premier League meeting earlier this season.
Biding his time
Using the Tarkowski Method to make Nathan Collins a Premier League star
Burnley boss Sean Dyche and captain Ben Mee tell The42 of how the Ireland international is primed to reach the top.

SEAN DYCHE IS using a tried and trusted approach to mould Nathan Collins into a Premier League regular.

You might call it the James Tarkowski Method.

Now a lynchpin of Burnley’s defence alongside centre back partner Ben Mee, the pair’s consistency is the reason the Republic of Ireland international has had to bide his time since making a £10 million move from Stoke City in the summer.

“There is healthy demand in what he wants to do,” Dyche explains. “And he is he cut out for respecting [that] he’s currently looking at two very, very good players, very experienced players in the Premier League.

“I think there is a healthy respect for that. Not in the sense that he [Collins] accepts it, because he definitely wants to play and has done very well when he has. So, I don’t think he is accepting of it, but there is a respect there and still the willingness to work hard, to progress, and I admire that in a player who has done very well.”

Collins has started, and completed, five top-flight games this season, most notably a 2-0 defeat away to champions Manchester City. His last was on 4 December, a 1-0 loss at Newcastle, and it is a progression plan put in place by Dyche that is actually further along than when Tarkowski arrived at Turf Moor in January 2016 prior to their promotion to the Premier League.

Back then, he was the one who had to be patient, biding his time behind Michael Keane before he completed a £30m move to Everton. Tarkowski made 19 appearances in his debut campaign among the elite, coming off the bench in his first 15.

He had to wait until the end of April in 2016/17 to start, just as Dyche edged them to safety with a 16th place finish, six points clear of the drop zone.

Tarkowski then stepped into the breach when Keane departed for Goodison Park, starting every one of his 157 appearances over the next five-and-a-half seasons, including four as Collins’ partner this term.

“He had bits of games, came in, reflected, went again,” Dyche recalls. “I see a lot of that in Collo. He’s fit, looks after himself. He’s been receptive to the feedback he’s had, which is genuinely very good. We’ve shown him some analysis, not loads, the things we think are the key things, the important things.

“He’s got a lot of natural good things in his game. We haven’t had any deep and meaningful big explanations. We’ve kept it quite simple, quite real, and he’s accepted that. He understands that.”

Mee, Burnley’s captain, will be celebrated ahead of today’s game with Watford for a decade of service. His tenure pre-dates that of Dyche, with his contract up this summer. 

“He’s completely different to them two, a bit quieter than the two boys,” the skipper says of Collins.  “He’s got a good head on him, a good personality and temperament. He just a good lad in general, not that the other two weren’t. I’m sure he will come out of his shell.

“He’s come into the group, he’s not been able to get a run of games, myself and Tarky have been playing quite a bit. But when he’s come in, he has done fantastically well. He looks a really good player, a really good talent.

“He’s good on the ball, we need to keep encouraging that and keep working. He’s still only a young player, especially for a defender, and is a really good talent.

“He’s got a good temperament on him for sure, listening and learning is part of that development. He’s done really well and has proved that he can handle it at this level. He will improve and get better and become a really good player.”

manchester-united-v-burnley-premier-league-old-trafford PA James Tarkowski. PA

Part of the reason Dyche can point to the success of the Tarkowski Method is that Burnley have remained a Premier League club.

That status is under serious threat now. They sit bottom of the table, four points from safety, albeit with four games in hand on Norwich City in 17th, three on Newcastle in 18th and two on Watford who are two points clear in 19th.

If they produce another escape act, Collins should be primed to take the next step in his career. Dyche’s explanation for how he is handling that progression on a weekly basis provides an insight into his general man-management techniques.

“We felt, we had heard he was a mature fella, that he had a lot of drive and determination to do the job. He’s receptive, he listens. We haven’t over coached him. We’ve let him naturally evolve, some of it is natural learning, some of it is coaching and analysing.

“Just some pointers, really. Just reaction stuff in the Premier League and how it can be quicker minded, not just quicker physically, the way players see pictures quicker. You have to be alert to that. He’s taken a lot on and is going along nicely. So far so good.

“We tend to try and find the line between the sessions we put on coaching, the way the session is designed, and equally letting the player develop. My gut feeling on the modern game, you almost over express to a player.

“They forget that learning and what they are observing, what they are doing themselves. I always try to find a bit of a balance to that. I try to leave players alone to let them figure things out, because if they learn it for themselves that can be way more powerful than if showing it on the screen.

“If you learn when you are out there doing it, that is a much more powerful coaching tool than it is just showing them on a screen, sometimes debriefing too quickly before they’ve even have had a chance to think it through.

“So it’s a delicate balance and different players have different styles,” Dyche adds. “The main learning styles; visual, audio, written and discussion. Not many want to write down, a few will discuss things but not all are comfortable with that. The things they are, you can see it when they listen.

“It’s not an exact thing, you have to try and play around with different players, different styles about learning about the game. It’s about finding the right buttons to push in any player at the right time.”

Collins, you hope, will be ready to take off soon.

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