After starting his career in the Manchester United Academy, Tom Heaton rejoined his boyhood club in the summer of 2021.
Becoming one of a select group of United players to enjoy two spells in M16, he admitted to enjoying “an incredible feeling” upon making the decision to return to Old Trafford.
Heaton began his United story in 2002, when he joined the club as a trainee, and made many appearances for our youth teams before making the decision to go in search of regular first-team football.
In 2010, he joined Cardiff City on a permanent deal, after a series of loan spells with Swindon, Royal Antwerp, Queens Park Rangers, Rochdale, Wycombe Wanderers and, indeed, Cardiff themselves.
After two seasons with the Bluebirds, and a solitary campaign with Bristol City, he then made the move north to Burnley, where he would cement himself as first-choice goalkeeper and help the Clarets to return to the Premier League after a four-year absence.
He would go on to captain the club and was named their Player of the Year for 2016/17; his impressive performances at club level even earning him an England call-up in 2016. He was part of the Three Lions’ squad for the European Championship and was again involved in the Nations League finals of 2019 – to date he is the proud owner of three senior international caps.
His most recent call-up came in November 2019, by which time he had left Burnley to join Aston Villa. Again he impressed at Premier League level, before suffering a serious cruciate knee ligament injury on New Year’s Day at his former home ground, Turf Moor.
With Heaton unavailable, Villa were moved to bring in ex-Arsenal stopper Emiliano Martinez, who was able to claim the no.1 jersey in Heaton’s absence. With first-team opportunities limited, United pounced to snap the former Red up when his Villa contract came to an end in the summer of 2021.
At just 35, a relatively modest age for a goalkeeper (Edwin van der Sar was 34 when he joined the Reds in 2005, for example), Heaton has his eyes set “firmly” on trying to get into the team.
United have reacquired a prodigal son, but one who returns to the club as a strong, organised leader, with a wealth of experience behind him.