A bright, young prospect

Published : May 16, 2015 00:00 IST



Representing England at every youth level, young Butland’s highlights include winning the 2010 under-17 European Championship and playing at the under-20 World Cup, having turned professional for Birmingham City as soon as he turned 17. By Matt Smith.

Jack Butland, just 22, has had a nomadic football career so far.

Borne of the loan network prevalent amongst the English lower leagues, he has somehow managed to squeeze in more unusual career moments than most others, including making his England debut before his Premier League bow, and playing in the first British Olympic team. Representing England at every youth level, young Butland’s highlights include winning the 2010 under-17 European Championship and playing at the under-20 World Cup, having turned professional for Birmingham City as soon as he turned 17.

In September 2011, Butland made his professional debut at the age of 18, on loan at Cheltenham Town in the fourth tier of English professional football. He went straight into the starting XI to make his debut at home to Macclesfield Town, displacing Scott Brown, who had until then made 107 consecutive starts for the club. Butland kept an easy clean sheet and Cheltenham won the game 2–0.

An initial month-long loan was extended to three months, and eventually led to seven clean sheets in 12 games, a call-up to the England under-21s, and glowing praise from his team-mates.

Cheltenham player Steve Elliot said: “He has everything he needs to play at the very top level. Jack’s head is screwed on, he knows what he wants and what he has to do to get there.”

Butland rejoined Cheltenham in the second half of the following season, playing 24 games before returning to make his Birmingham debut after Boaz Myhill suffered a thumb injury. It was reported that at least 50 scouts had watched Butland at one of the games during his second Cheltenham spell.

His reputation was such that despite playing no games above the fourth tier in his professional career at that point, Butland was the only player selected for both England’s EURO 2012 squad and Team GB for the London 2012 Olympics.

Although he was third choice at the EUROs, Butland was omnipresent at the Olympics. He started all of Britain’s games in the tournament, with mixed success. Against Senegal, he cleared the ball straight to the unmarked Sadio Mane but redeemed himself by making a good one-on-one save. Against Uruguay, Butland made two good saves from Luis Suarez to keep a clean sheet as Great Britain won 1–0 and finished top of their group.

In the knockout stages against South Korea, an attempted punch of Ji Dong-Won’s shot went through his hands to give them the lead in the quarter-final before the match ended 1–1 and South Korea won the penalty shootout 5–4.

Butland did make the step up for the senior national team, starting in an experimental XI against Italy in a friendly to become England’s youngest ever goalkeeper at 19 years, 158 days. He was replaced at half-time as England won 2-1.

Following the rejection of a GBP6million bid from Premier League club Southampton, then Blues boss Lee Clark said it would take a “crazy” offer to sell him and Butland became Birmingham’s number one.

Financial difficulties by January meant they had to sell their most prized assets though, with Butland being one. He made clear that he wanted to move for first-team football, even to the extent of rejecting contract offers from Chelsea.

He instead joined Stoke for GBP3.5million, but on arrival at the club following a loan spell back at Birmingham, he found himself as the third-choice keeper. Hence began Butland’s grand loan road trip and he has since spent time with Barnsley — where he conceded a penalty on his debut — as well as Leeds United and Derby County.

In the second half of this season, Butland has served as back-up for Asmir Begovic, playing in League and FA Cup matches. He still appears very much to be part of Stoke’s plans, as a contract extension to 2019 signed in March clearly indicates.

Should Begovic move on this summer, Butland now looks ready to become a Premier League regular for years to come.

FACTFILEName: Jack ButlandPosition: GoalkeeperClub: Stoke CityDOB: 10/3/1993England CAPS: 1

Moment to remember: Making his Premier League debut as a half-time substitute for Stoke against Everton on New Year's Day.

Moment to forget: His error contributing to Great Britain's elimination from their home Olympics in 2012.

© PA Sport

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