SAINTS may have to splash out a British record fee for a goalkeeper if they are to land Jack Butland.
Birmingham have already rejected a £6m offer from Saints for the 19- year-old and are adamant they will only sell one of the most highlyrated youngsters in the country for a massive price.
That may have to rival the £9m Sunderland paid to Hearts to make Craig Gordon the most expensive British keeper in history.
Whether Saints will wish to part with such a high fee for a keeper whose only first team experience is a loan spell at League Two Cheltenham remains to be seen.
Butland made headlines recently when, despite not having made an appearance for his club yet, he was called into Roy Hodgson’s England squad for Euro 2012 after an injury to Norwich’s John Ruddy.
Saints will sign a keeper this summer having released Bartosz Bialkowski at the end of his contract.
But, with such large sums of money being spoken about, it appears they may be looking for someone to take over from Kelvin Davis rather than find him a new understudy.
Signing a young keeper may mean they play second fiddle for Davis, pictured right, for the time being with a view to being his long term successor.
However, in Butland’s case, it is understood he would only leave Birmingham if he was to get first team football elsewhere.
Butland is believed to be quite content at Birmingham as he is virtually guaranteed to be the club’s number one next season, at what is a very tender age for a keeper, with the Blues set to sell Ben Foster to West Brom.
The Blues are on something of a charm offensive with their fans having failed to get promoted and losing manager Chris Hughton to Norwich.
They have appointed Lee Clark as their new boss and are keen not to be seen to be losing their best assets, hence why they will only sell for a fee they could justify to their fans – which probably means over the top.
Clark said: “He’s (Butland) got a huge part to play in the future of this club.
“The club are very lucky to have the standard of keepers that we have on the books.
“Everyone can see that Jack’s an international star of the future and it would be nice for him to do that with Birmingham City.”
He added: “Jack and Nathan (Redmond) are two fantastic young players that Peter Pannu has already come out about, in his words, and said ‘eye-popping’ bids and what he means by that is crazy bids, so it would have to be a fantastic amount of money.
“The people that get involved with that would deal with it, but it would take big, big numbers – huge numbers.
“So those lads will be part of the group that start the season because they are fantastic young players.”
Clark is not too backward in coming forwards though when it comes to Butland’s ability, which has earned him a place in the Team GB Olympic squad and is what is attracting Saints and covetous glances from other top flight clubs, all of whom had scouts at his last game for Cheltenham last season.
“Jack can push Joe Hart all the way to be the number one for his country,” said Clark.
“The Olympics, it’s great kudos for the club, it’s great for the lad to have that opportunity to compete in such a fantastic arena. You can never stop that for a young player.
“We are all delighted and proud for Jack.
Hopefully he has a successful time and then comes back to us because he will be super-confident.
“But that’s football.
You can’t hide good players, just like you can’t hide bad players.
“They’re always in the shop window.”