England goalkeeper Jack Butland speaks about his rapid rise through the ranks.
By Nicholas Veevers
It’s only seven days since Jack Butland
set new history and became the youngest goalkeeper to play for England and he’s since gone on to make his senior debut for parent club Birmingham City in what has been a big week in the 19-year-old’s already impressive career.
After such a rapid rise to the top, Butland has admitted that his experience and grounding in England’s development teams over the last four years has played an influential role in his progression. The work that is put in by the coaches and staff at the younger international age groups often goes un-noticed, but everything about a player’s first international experience with England from the U16s through to the Under-21s is structured in a similar way to the Senior set-up, enabling the ultimate transition to be a smooth one for the individual concerned.
Butland’s time with England began with the U16s and the Victory Shield in 2008 but it was in May 2010 with the U17 squad where his first real international exposure came, when he was part of the team which were crowned as European Champions in Liechtenstein
under the tutelage of Head Coach John Peacock
and a victory over Spain in the Final.
Caps at U19 level swiftly followed on and his international reputation went up another step on the ladder in the summer of 2011 when he was selected as first choice for England U20s in the FIFA U20 World Cup in Colombia.
He was one of the best goalkeepers in the competition, whilst still two years younger than the players he was up against, and it was his penalty save against Mexico in the final group game
that helped Brian Eastick’s side progress to the knock-out stages where they were eventually beaten by Nigeria.
With England Under-21 Head Coach Stuart Pearce
on Eastick's coaching staff for the trip to South America, Butland had clearly caught the eye and just a matter of weeks later, he was debuting for Pearce’s team
as first-choice ‘keeper in their qualification campaign for the European Championship Finals in Israel in 2013.
That also co-incided with a loan spell at Cheltenham Town in League Two, where his performances helped the Robins form a real promotion push and his development in the Football League continued to sky-rocket.
It all culminated in a call-up to Roy Hodgson’s Senior squad for the EURO 2012 Finals in Poland and Ukraine and whilst many fans were unaware of Butland’s talents at the time, the man himself felt his arrival in the squad was relatively straightforward.
“A lot of my exposure has come through international football,” admits Butland, whose busy summer also saw him feature for Team GB
in the London 2012 Olympics.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have represented most of the age groups with England and I think that’s helped a great deal in my international development.
“But I’ve been out and got some experience and even though it was in League Two with Cheltenham, I had to get out and play and get that experience under my belt.”
And now that he’s started to establish himself in Birmingham’s first-team this season, the Bristol-born stopper is still eyeing further progress having seen how quickly things have happened for him.
“It was the World Cup in Colombia last pre-season and Cheltenham that got me into the Under-21s and then into the Euros and the Olympics,” he added.
“Everything has a trigger point and I’m still pushing on so hopefully I can get a few more games and push on even more.”
His appearances with England at all levels over the years have also meant he has been able to see at close quarters that there is a great deal of young talent emerging through the international ranks, which he just hopes can find the breakthrough at club level to take on a similar path to himself.
Butland's progress shows just how quickly things can happen for young English players, as proved by another 19-year-old to have come through the ranks with him in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
, and he believes the future is bright for many more Young Lions.
“It’s talked about quite a bit, but I think there’s some fantastic youth coming through, not just goalkeepers, but English players all fighting for their chance,” he explained.
“I think everyone should be excited about what England are bringing through and to see young players get opportunities and hopefully that will be soon.”