Even at the age of 18, Jack Butland was being touted as a man who could one day become England number one. Four years later, he has become the Stoke City number one, and is turning into one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League.
This is the first season where Butland has been the undisputed number one for a Premier League team. Despite joining Stoke in 2013, this is the first campaign where he hasn’t gone out on loan to a Championship side.
Towards the end of last season, he got a bit of a run in the Stoke side, a chance he used to show how good he had become. This season has seen him play every minute for the Potters in the Premier League after Asmir Begovic was sold to Chelsea in the summer.
Butland’s rise to the top hasn’t been an easy one. He started his career at Birmingham City, and agreed a move to Stoke after just six months in the first team, immediately returning to the club on loan.
Since then, he has spent time on loan at Barnsley, Leeds United and Derby County in an attempt to reach his potential. Although he has improved at all of those clubs, he never really shone, and questions were raised as to whether he had the ability to become a top goalkeeper.
This season he has silenced his critics and been one of the best ‘keepers in the Premier League. Only Everton’s Tim Howard has faced more shots than the 105 that Butland has so far this season. Butland surpasses Howard in the amount of saves made however, making 83 in comparison to the 75 that the American has made.
During the 0-0 draw against Arsenal on Sunday, Butland came up against one of the Premier League’s greatest ever goalkeepers, Petr Cech. The Englishman took the chance to show off his ability, making two fantastic saves to deny Olivier Giroud, one in each half.
Stoke’s main problem will be trying to keep hold of Butland if a big club comes knocking. He will be desperate to challenge Joe Hart for the chance to be England number one within the next couple of years, and his best chance of doing this is with a team in European competitions.
He has been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool in recent weeks and it is easy to see why. Neither Simon Mignolet nor Adam Bogdan have done enough to warrant a place in a top side, and it is likely that Jurgen Klopp will look to buy a goalkeeper as early as this summer.
If Stoke can keep hold of Butland for the foreseeable future, they have a good chance of making the top seven. However it will be difficult for them to persuade him to stay if he decides he wants to go.