Jack Butland impressing and ready to put the pressure on England No 1 Joe Hart
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 06/11/15 8:56am
Following Joe Hart's error against Norwich, we take a closer look at the battle to be England's No 1 goalkeeper, as youngster Jack Butland continues to impress...
"Jack Butland was the difference between us getting one point and three points today. But for him we would have won the game."
McClaren: Butland the difference
Steve McClaren believes Jack Butland was key to denying Newcastle victory
Steve McClaren couldn't hide his frustration after Newcastle's 0-0 draw with Stoke. Despite his attackers' best efforts, they could find no way past Jack Butland. It's becoming a familiar problem for Premier League forwards.
On Saturday, 22-year-old Butland made six saves to record his third clean sheet of the season. He also made six saves against Norwich in August to earn Stoke a point at Carrow Road, although his remarkable 10 blocks at the Emirates couldn't prevent a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in September.
"Jack is playing exceptionally well and is full of confidence, which is a big thing for goalkeepers," his manager, Mark Hughes, said after watching Butland's heroics against Newcastle.
"He is enjoying his work and being No 1 here, it is what he believes he should be. He is growing day on day in terms of his presence and influence on the team and that is credit to him."
Butland's performances this season have been a remarkable display of someone seizing their opportunity. The young shot stopper was on loan with McClaren's Derby in the Championship for the first half of last season and restricted to cup games and end-of-season dead rubbers when he returned to the Britannia.
However, the Birmingham academy graduate is now first choice at Stoke after Asmir Begovic's move to Chelsea. He's also among the best performing 'keepers in England's top flight.
This season no goalkeeper has made more saves, he has the joint-fourth best saves-to-shot percentage and he's yet to make an error.
I think Jack will play many games at international level. There is an exceptional goalkeeper in Joe Hart ahead of him at the moment, so there will be great competition for that position in the years to come.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes
The next goal in his sights is taking the England No 1 jersey from Manchester City's Joe Hart.
"Joe's an incredible keeper who's established himself for a long time now. But, for me, I want to put pressure on him," Butland said ahead of England's final Euro 2016 qualifiers.
For now, Hart's status as Roy Hodgson's first choice seems assured.
He recorded seven clean sheets in nine appearances during England's qualifying campaign for next summer's European Championships, conceding just three goals. Since Fabio Capello made him No 1 after the 2010 World Cup he's been the country's undisputed top goalie.
But Hart's terrible blunder against Norwich this weekend, which almost cost Man City all three points and top spot in the Premier League, contrasted with Butland's superb display in Stoke's draw with Newcastle and served as a reminder to the 28-year-old that he has a challenger for his crown at last.
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"I think Jack will play many games at international level," said Hughes on Saturday. "There is an exceptional goalkeeper in Joe Hart ahead of him at the moment, who is still a very young man himself, so there will be great competition for that position in the years to come.
"I think if Jack keeps fit and well and progressing at the rate he is at the moment, it will be a huge choice for whoever is the England manager - but a nice choice to have."
With international friendlies against Spain and France later this month offering Hodgson a rare chance to pit his England side against some of the top teams in the world, it seems unlikely he will experiment with his line-up too much.
But Hodgson handed Butland a start against Lithuania in England's final Euro 2016 qualifier in Vilnius, indicating the Stoke stopper is in his thoughts, and Hart will be aware he can ill afford too many more slip-ups ahead of next summer's showpiece.
Butland, in his own words, will be there to put the pressure on when the national team meet up next week.