England star Jack Butland says U20 World Cup kick-started his international rise
Jack Butland puts his rise to international stardom down to his U20 World Cup experience in 2011.
The current England Under-21s star was part of the squad for the trip to the 2011 World Cup in Colombia and has since gone on to play for the Seniors and experience EURO 2012.
And the Stoke City ‘keeper, currently on loan back at Birmingham City, puts it all down to his involvement in South America 18 months ago.
Monday evening sees the draw for the 2013 U20 World Cup in Turkey and the chance for another young England squad to experience World Cup fever in their fledgling careers.
Butland told TheFA.com: “It was an incredible experience, the whole trip.
“From when we first landed in Colombia and the feeling around the place, you could tell it was a big deal for them and everyone involved. It made me realise just how big the tournament is.
“It's the World Cup, and that's what it felt like.
“The way we were greeted in the airport, by the local police putting on a show in the airport, it was just surreal.
"But it was very moving and got us to feel and understand what the tournament was about.
“If anyone was umming or aahing about going, you'd be mad not to.”
Bristol-born Butland had been a regular for England from U16s level up, being part of the U17s’ European Championship winning squad in 2010.
But the 20-year-old admits he had never seen anything like it in South America when Brian Eastick’s team emerged through the group stages and reached the last 16 of the competition.
He explained: “I'd been to a European Championship at U17s level before, and it was nothing compared to the U20s World Cup in terms of size and the number of people who came to games.
“Every stadium we played at was sold out, there was 40,000-plus at every one of our group games.
“It was an incredible atmosphere and allowed us the chance to go somewhere we had never been before and, for me, helped with my career as well.
“Don't ever turn down the opportunity. It's something that got me to where I am and if I hadn't done well or even gone to the tournament.”
At the time, Butland was one of the youngest members of the England squad, but his mature performances, including a penalty save in the group game with Mexico, saw him come back with a better player.
He was swiftly moved up into Stuart Pearce’s Under-21 squad and within a year was part of Roy Hodgson’s Senior squad for the 2012 Euro Finals in Poland and Ukraine before a senior debut against Italy in August 2012.
And he feels that the platform which the U20 World Cup provided was the catalyst for his progression with both club and country.
He explained: “Stuart Pearce might not have acknowledged me as early as it happened and I may not have been brought into the Under-21s set-up quite as early.
“For me it was the kick-start to everything that has happened over the last couple of years.
"It got me into the Under-21s, it led to my loan move to Cheltenham which in turn led me to playing for Birmingham and got me my senior call-up, going to Euro 2012 and then the Olympics.
“The trigger was the U20 World Cup.
“I went there and it was a chance for me to show people what I was about. I just went out there and played the best I could.
“Thankfully, it did go well and for me it was the stepping stone.”
Peter Taylor will take charge of the U20s for this year’s competition and with the tournament taking place in June and July, will have a good chance of selecting a strong squad.
And Butland urges anyone selected to grab their World Cup chance with both hands for what will be the chance to pit their wits against some of the best players in the world.
“If you look at past players, Messi won player of the tournament twice, and that says all you need to know,” added Butland.
“Players who go there gain experience, memories and even trophies and go on to do big things.
“I'd like to think that would happen to me, but the U20s World Cup is a huge tournament, and a lot bigger than people may think.“