Jack Butland has endured a rollercoaster few months and it seems that his ride hasn’t stopped yet.
In the two games he has featured in this season he has been at fault for goals in both, and it is possible the interest in him from elsewhere has caused a distraction which means he is not in the right frame of mind.
It is no secret that the keeper wants a return to the Premier League in order to remain in contention for the England team, but he now faces a difficult period in which he will have to remain in the Championship until a deal can be worked out.
Our FLW Six Pointer assesses Butland’s current situation and what has happened with him over the summer…
First of all, how close was he to leaving Stoke?
“There was interest in him from Aston Villa for much of the summer, but a breakdown between the clubs over a fee ultimately led Villa to look elsewhere and sign Tom Heaton.
“Ultimately, Butland would likely have mentally prepared for a move away at the beginning of the summer, so the fact that hasn’t been realised, however close it may or may not have been, will affect the player.”
Do you think he is unsettled and could that be a reason for his mistakes, or has he just been unfortunate?
“There is little doubt that he probably wishes he was at a different club, and mentality can have a big impact on performance, particularly for goalkeepers for whom concentration is essential.
“Despite that, it is difficult to pinpoint individual mistakes on one or two factors. Given the different nature of the mistakes he made it is more likely that he made the wrong decision in the moment, rather than it being a problem with his mindset.
“It is a worrying start though and if it continues any longer it will be a trend that could severely hinder Stoke and force Nathan Jones to drop him from the team.
“Nevertheless, Butland is a good professional and knows he has to play at his best level in order to stand a chance of being called-up. He will be more frustrated than anyone at his mistakes and will urgently look to avoid making any more in future.”
Is a move to the Premier League realistic in January or next summer?
“The unfortunate thing for Butland is that there are not many teams in the Premier League in need of a first-team goalkeeper and those that do need a keeper aren’t prepared to splash £20m on Butland.
“Bournemouth are one side who could do with a new no.1, their reported interest suggests that, so it is possible they will move for him in January if Eddie Howe hasn’t solved the position by that point.
“Butland is a very good ‘keeper and deserves to be playing in the top-flight. If he plays to the best of his ability in the coming months then he will likely spark more interest in him and a club should make a concrete move, so it is certainly a realistic proposition.”
What must he do in the foreseeable future to ensure his career doesn’t derail?
“It is a difficult situation for Butland because he was in a similar position last year and knuckled down and focused on his game with the idea he would earn his move this summer, but that hasn’t materialised.
“As a result, he may want to speak to the manager or club hierarchy in order to get assurances that he will be sold in the future.
“That means it would be slightly unfair to suggest he should concentrate on his football, as that will not guarantee anything.
“It will, however, generate interest in him and keep him in the mind of Gareth Southgate. He is still young so and as long as he remains professional and plays well then his career should follow the path he has in mind.”
Is it possible he could make a return to the Premier League with Stoke?
“Currently, things don’t look particularly positive for the club and their only win and clean sheet has, funnily enough, come when Butland wasn’t in the side.
“Jones is still overseeing a rebuilding process at the club and trying to get his squad to understand his methods and the way he wants to play, and it may be some time until they are ready to mount a promotion campaign.
“Butland’s contract expires in 2021 so unless Jones turns things around quickly it is likely Butland will move on in order to make it back into the Premier League.
“This season he has only held his team back so unless he improves his own performances he could cost Stoke more points, and they really can’t afford that given the other problem areas in the team.”
What must Nathan Jones do now to manage his situation effectively?
“He needs to have an honest talk with Butland and sympathise with the situation he is in.
“Butland is still a key player for Stoke and Jones must make him aware of that, and explain that if he performs to his highest level then it will be the best for him and the club’s chances of reaching the Premier League.
“Jones also has two other strong keepers in Adam Federici and Adam Davies so it is possible he could tell Butland that he will be sold as long as he gives his all for Stoke for the next few months/year.
“That should satisfy all parties and help to get the best out of Butland whilst he is still a Stoke player.”