Relishing his role

Jack Butland of stoke city brings off a spectacular save against Norwich City in theEnglish Premier League.-GETTY IMAGES

Still only 22, Jack Butland can now secure his place as Stoke’s number one goalkeeper and further prove his credentials to be a regular in the England squad, writes Jim van Wijk.

Jack Butland has had to wait a long time to become a Premier League regular, so he is not about to let injuries get in his way if he can help it. Butland has long since been hailed as one of the best young goalkeepers in England but has had to move around the lower leagues to secure regular first-team football. During his time at Birmingham City he had two loan spells at Cheltenham Town and even won his first England cap before he had made his Blues debut.

A number of impressive performances were rewarded with a move to Stoke City, but loan spells at Birmingham, Barnsley, Leeds United and Derby County all followed, with Asmir Begovic ahead of him in the pecking order at Stoke.

With Begovic having now departed for Chelsea, Butland finally has his chance to shine at the top level and so far he is making the most of it. Still only 22, Butland can now secure his place as Stoke’s number one and further prove his credentials to be a regular in the England squad.

Both of those ambitions look certainties based on his performance in the recent 1-1 draw at Norwich City, when Stoke manager Mark Hughes revealed the shot-stopper had defied a broken finger to produce his Man-of-the-Match display.

Stoke needed Butland to be at his best in the Premier League clash at Carrow Road and he pulled off a string of impressive saves to deny the Canaries during a second-half onslaught. Butland produced saves out of the top drawer to deny Nathan Redmond and then Graham Dorrans twice as Stoke held out for a point.

Hughes said: “He was close to missing the game because he has broken a finger, so when his fingers are all right, he will be even better, if that is possible. He showed a lot of maturity prior to the match, because he needed to be honest with me with what he was able to produce and whether or not it was going to compromise him.

“It was just in training, when a ball hit the end of it, and has a bit of a crack and it will get strapped up. He will have to play with a bit of pain for a couple of weeks, but he will be fine.”

Butland is expected to be in contention for a place in the England squad for the upcoming EURO 2016 qualifiers.

Hughes added: “He has those aspirations (to be England regular), but first and foremost he has to play week in and week out as a number one at Stoke City. It is still early days in his career, but he is doing everything right at the moment.

“We are delighted with what he has produced in his games so far, and the more he has as a number one, then the better he will become. We were grateful to Jack for making the saves which kept us in the game later on.”

Butland is relishing his long-awaited opportunity, saying: “I love it and I can’t ask for much more. I am just looking forward to every opportunity each week to perform and trying to grab it with both hands.”

Some impressive signings mean Stoke are tipped to do well this season and Butland believes the squad can also move forward into a successful campaign as they target another top-10 finish.

“We have got work to do, but we are optimistic,” he said. “We have to keep working hard to hit those high levels of consistency and make sure we are performing well every week.” The same can also be said of Butland if he is now to fulfil the potential which he has shown for years.

© PA Sport