Jack Butland is the best goalkeeper in England and he plays for Stoke City. But he might not be playing at Stoke City for long.
Butland to Stoke is like a fine wine to someone who likes fine wine. We have enjoyed the first half of the bottle so much that now we have come to the final sumptuous glass. One final glass, one final season to enjoy.
I don’t have a crystal ball, granted, but if he stays fit and plays the way he has for us in pretty much every game he has featured, then I can’t see him being a Stoke player come the start of the 2018 season. But, having said that, I now expect the final sip of that fine Pinot Grigio of a bottle to be his status as England’s number one at next summer’s World Cup.
It feels good to type that out, to actually believe that Butland will one day very soon be named as England’s full time number one.
He of course played the second half for England against France earlier in the week, which was nice to see after he picked up that unfortunate ankle injury 15 months ago whilst wearing the three lions on his chest, but watching him start every game for England will be even nicer.
Butland would have started that game if he hadn’t been hampered by injury for the majority of last season. In fact there is a high chance he would have started against Scotland too. Actually scrap that, he would have been confirmed as number one by now.
Joe Hart’s trip to Italy might have been brave, smart, the right thing to do. Whatever it was, or is, for Joe, frankly, I don’t care. What it does for Jack is give him that opportunity to get into the England side. And then stay there.
It was annoying that England conceded that late goal against France, not because we lost the game but because it gave me flashbacks of that Shawcross game against Sweden.
We all know the story. Stoke fans rejoice as Ryan Shawcross finally gets the call up he deserves. Zlatan Ibrahimovic does a Zlatan or three. No more Ryan Shawcross in an England shirt. Heartbreakingly quick, heartbreakingly simple.
It still saddens me. But that situation is completely different to the Butland one. Butland was not at fault for Dembele’s 72nd minute goal on Tuesday (not that I’m saying Shawcross was at fault for Zlatan), but even if he was at fault there is no reason to be scared about his future England career.
Ryan’s was a poisoned chalice to Jack’s now Holy Grail-like chances of that number one spot. Ryan wasn’t the fashionable choice, even though we all knew he could defend better than any Gary, John or Chris, no one else seemed to believe it. Jack has come out as everyone’s favourite, and deservedly so. Henry Winter is talking him up on 5 live, he comes out top on Talksport Twitter polls and I bet there’s a fair number of Arsenal fans that don’t feel embarrassed to say he deserves the call. And that level of love gives Jack a much more room for error than Ryan ever had. Even if he made a mistake on Tuesday he would still be many people’s choice. Heaton would know, he made two mistakes. You could say mistakes, you could say serve the ball medium rare with a side salad and thick cut chips on a plate. We’ll keep it at mistakes.
I digress. Watching Butland in an England shirt excites me. More than watching England ever should. He’s ours. But I don’t think he will be ours for long. We haven’t enjoyed him for too long when you think about it. One full season and a handful of games. It feels like he has been around for ages. Knitted into the fabric of our club. But he isn’t. And if he is it will be very easy picked out of the fabric and moved along to the highest bidder.
Whoever that bidder is, we should not be bitter. Jack deserves it, we all know that, we all expect an end. All I hope for now is that we hold onto him for next season. A season where he will dominate the posts behind a scarily domitable defence. A season where we can truly savour his unbelievably impressive goalkeeping before it’s too late and we have to say goodbye to another fine footballer. A season where he will go onto cement his place as the England goalkeeper. And, as we sup on cold lagers in the British sun next summer, the fine wine that is Jack Butland will be lifting the World Cup in Russia after a player of the tournament performance and we’ll drink fine wine until the sun don’t shine.
Maybe I’ve taken the metaphor too far.
Ben Cartwright // @bajcartwright