Jack Butland has been one of the form goalkeepers in the Premier League so far. The Englishman has seized on the opportunity left by Asmir Begovic’s move to Chelsea. After his performances this season, there have been calls for Roy Hodgson to give him the chance to add to his solitary cap. He was named in the squad to face San Marino and Switzerland, but did not get a chance to play, even against the group minnows.
Stoke have had a pretty miserable start to the season, with the sales of Begovic and N’zonzi, and the loss of Ryan Shawcross to injury, meansing that the spine of last season’s team has disappeared. It is no wonder that Mark Hughes’ side have looked anything but solid, picking up just two points from five games.
But from this turmoil, Butland has risen to be considered once again as Joe Hart’s natural competitor. Butland was one of only four goalkeepers to take to the field last weekend that are eligible to play for England, and he produced a string of fine saves to limit the Potters to a 2-0 defeat. His importance to the side could be seen in his Man of the Match performance against Norwich, in which he made six saves whilst playing with a broken finger.
In fact, Butland’s 27 saves this season is more than any other Premier League stopper, but why has he suddenly stepped up to become one of the best performing goalkeepers in the division. The main reason, one would presume, would be because of the confidence that he has due to being the definitive number one. Begovic’s departure could have seen Stoke sign a new first choice keeper, and continue loaning out Butland. Instead, they gave him the number one shirt, and brought in Shay Given. The experienced Irishman would be able to provide guidance for the 22 year old, but also to step straight in if Butland needed to be taken out of the limelight. This boost in confidence, as well as the stability of knowing where he will play his football this season can only have aided his game.
Another reason why Butland had stepped up is that he was needed to. With an untried defence, and a midfield unit based more on the attacking side of the game, Stoke have looked very vulnerable at times. Added to this, they have had a tough run of opening fixtures, already facing Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal. These factors mean that he was likely to see a lot of action, and his club have needed him to seize the initiative and show why they had placed so much faith in him. The easy option for Hughes would be to play the tried and tested Given until the defence had settled, or at least until Shawcross had recovered, but the manager has to be applauded for keeping faith with his young stopper.
Butland had previously won plaudits in 2012, where he stepped up from League Two Cheltenham Town to make England’s European Championship squad, winning his only cap to date, as well as keeping goal for the Great Britain Olympic team.