While Begovic has been unfortunate to be part of a Chelsea side that has looked utterly dysfunctional this season, his former understudy Jack Butland has blossomed as Stoke’s first-choice goalkeeper. Rebecca Coles wonders whether it will be long before he supplants Joe Hart as first choice for England . . .
At just 22 years of age and in his first season as a No.1 keeper, Jack Butland has played 12 games and is already looking to keep current Manchester City and England keeper Joe Hart on his toes.
In just the last few weeks, Butland’s confidence and ability has seen him pulling out all the stops in his quest to rival Hart for his place. He has become one of the unstoppable goalkeepers in the Premier League.
Butland began his career at Birmingham City and made his debut in September 2011 whilst on loan to League Two Cheltenham Town. After establishing himself for two years, he was sold to Stoke City in 2013 and became understudy to Bosnian-Canadian goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
He couldn’t have moved at a better time; and began to learn from a top professional like Begovic, who had left Portsmouth in 2010 after playing as an understudy to David James and Dean Kiely.
Butland has spent the last few seasons back on loan at Birmingham City as well as Barnsley, Leeds United and Derby County. In between these spells, his long-term occupation has been to work closely beside perfectionist Begovic as Stoke’s reserve keeper. All this paid off as Mark Hughes dropped the 28-year-old to the bench in favour of Butland towards the end of last season.
Ahead of this season, it was all about to change as Begovic completed his £8million move to Stamford Bridge, giving Butland his time to shine as the Potters’ new No.1.
If Stoke City fans had any doubt in their mind about missing Begovic and putting their trust in Butland, it would now seem ridiculous to have even entertained the thought.
Butland has been the difference for 12th-placed Stoke in the league so far this season as the best attackers, including Diego Costa and Bafetimbi Gomis, fail to find a way past him. After seasons of warming the bench, his performances have been spectacular and he is currently the best performing keeper in England’s top flight.
In just four months, Butland has yet to make an error, bagged four clean sheets and is top of the league charts with 50 saves. Compared to his England rival Hart, with seven clean sheets and just 15 saves, it’s beyond impressive.
Though he may still be young yet, Butland is not short of achievements as he became the youngest goalkeeper to play for England’s senior squad when he made his debut at just 19 in August 2012 and made a second start with a 3-0 win over Lithuania just last month.
In his recent interview with Sky Sports, Butland called Hart his role model: “Joe is someone I have a massive amount of respect for. He came to Birmingham when I was 15-16, on loan for year, and he was incredible.
“Since then, he’s been my role model and someone I try to emulate. But things have changed a bit since then, so I’d like to keep performing and try and put pressure on him in that squad for sure.
“I‘m very much behind him in terms of experience so I’m not going to bite off more than I can chew.”
As we enter the international break, the pressure is on Hart to maintain his place and for Butland to rival him for the England No.1 jersey.
Something tells me that we won’t be waiting long for Butland to get his chance . . .
Read more from Rebecca Coles here.