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This season could be the making of Jack Butland

Monday 3rd July 2017
Football is a funny old game. One day a player is improving rapidly to the point at which they are being talked about as potential transfer targets of the biggest clubs, the next they are sitting in the treatment room following a freak incident that sees them ruled out for pretty much an entire season.

This was the fate that befell Stoke's Jack Butland. While on England duty he seemed to concede a very soft goal against Germany as Toni Kroos strike snuck past him. At first glance, it was another 'not again' moment for an English goalkeeper. On second viewing though, Butland was seen hobbling before the goal, as it turned out he had injured his ankle badly.

This injury would keep him out for over a year and see him fall out of the minds of many. Touted as the next English number one, Butland would toil for over 12 months as he recovered.

In that time, youngster Jordan Pickford has risen astronomically and, much like Butland, he is seen as having huge potential with the tag of England's future number one dangled over his head.

Of course, Butland was never truly out of contention. It would be a case of regaining full fitness, before taking to the pitch again, after all, form is temporary, class is permanent.

Since returning to Stoke, Butland kept two clean sheets in five games. It is just a taste of what his team's fans can expect following performances with big saves and outstanding moments in the seasons prior to his injury.

These performances also made a number of the biggest clubs sit up and take notice, with his ability and potential a feature of what they could purchase.

For Butland then, it seems as though the 2017/18 season will be one that could shape his future. Most would have been keeping tabs on his return from injury which was successful, and this attention will now turn to his development in the year to come.
Importantly, both the goalkeeper and Stoke are up and coming in the Premier League. Gone are the days in which Stoke were labelled footballing bullies, with physicality and long balls their philosophy. Under Mark Hughes, they are an evolving side that are capable of moments of magnificence.

Butland too is still looking to grow as a player and that improvement will come from earning a move to one of England's biggest clubs. Like Joe Hart, Butland has been able to play consistently with a side outside of the top six. This culminated in Hart being a huge part of Manchester City's two title wins after 'cutting his teeth' in his early career.

For Butland, he is playing at one of the biggest sides in the Premier League outside of the so called big boys. He is, therefore getting the chance to play for a good side where there is a lot of pressure on him to perform and win more games than they lose.

In conjunction with this, Stoke are usually quite a miserly side when it comes to conceding goals and Butland will pride himself on his ability to keep clean-sheets.

Barring injury, this will be a huge season for Butland. If he is able to make a strong start to the season then it may end in him being linked with the biggest teams. The likes of Manchester United and Arsenal are always linked with new goalkeepers and their own situations with their current number ones could see them in the market for a new player. Could Butland be that player?
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

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