Former Saints target ready to face the best



First published in Sport

Great Britain keeper Jack Butland cannot envisage a time when he would "engineer" a result to secure a favourable draw.

In a week when four badminton mixed doubles pairs were thrown out of the Olympics for trying to lose, it never crossed Butland's mind not to make the late save from Luis Suarez in Cardiff on Wednesday that secured Britain's victory over Uruguay.

If Suarez had scored, Britain would not now be preparing for a quarter-final tussle with South Korea at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow knowing hot favourites Brazil will almost certainly await the winners.

On paper at least, the other half of the draw looks negotiable.

Indeed, Senegal, who finished behind Britain in Group A, are now fancied to reach the Wembley final on August 11.

There is no question of Butland – who was a £6m transfer target for Saints earlier this summer – regretting that save though.

"If we are going to play in this tournament, we will have to play the best teams," he said.

"It doesn't matter whether it is the final or semi, we are going to have to play Brazil if we want to win the competition because I don't expect them to get knocked out tomorrow.

"It would never come down to manufacturing a different result to get in a different half of the draw. That would never happen."

Besides, Butland has a growing reputation to maintain, and Brazil are the perfect opponents to test it.

Twelve months ago, the 19-year-old was preparing to embark on the first of two spells on loan with Cheltenham.

When the domestic campaign ended his only senior action was with the Whaddon Road outfit.

But positive reports from England's goalkeeping coach Dave Watson propelled Butland into Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad when previous third choice John Ruddy was forced to pull out with a broken finger.

That experience from Poland and Ukraine banked, Butland then demanded he was released for Olympic duty, even though the Football Association previously stated no player would be asked to do both.

So Butland has found himself turning out in front of massive crowds at Old Trafford, Wembley and the Millennium Stadium over the past week, and taking it all in his stride.

"I thrive on pressure," he said.

"I love big games. All I have wanted to do since I started was play for England and win tournaments.

"I do get nerves at times. Before the first match at Old Trafford I was the most nervous I have ever been in my life.

"It took me about 20 minutes to get used to it but after that I was fine. It is something to enjoy, not be frightened off."

The good thing about Butland is his impressive maturity.

Natural exuberance of youth means the Birmingham keeper might be bullish about the prospect of challenging Joe Hart for the England number one jersey.

He isn't, though. Butland is completely realistic about his short-term goals.

"One day I would like to do that but I am not seeing my career in the same way," he said.

"I enjoyed being part of the England set-up because I gained so much experience and hopefully that will continue.

"But I am still only 19 and I need to play games before I can ever think about testing Joe because he is one of the best keepers in the world at present.

"All I want to do at the moment is enjoy this Olympic experience and see where it takes me."

Comments (1)

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8:46pm Fri 3 Aug 12

Condor Man says...

Butland could be the next England keeper, I can see Birmingham holding out for a big club to come into him as they are pricing us out of a deal.
Butland could be the next England keeper, I can see Birmingham holding out for a big club to come into him as they are pricing us out of a deal. Condor Man
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