London: This is the rise of Jack Butland: Cheltenham to Euro 2012 and the Olympic Games, to the brink of an England debut which would smash a 124-year-old record.
Yet this is a teenager who has not played competitive football higher than England’s fourth division.
Headlong into the hype we go, except many sober judges of goalkeeping talent are giddy at the rapid progress of this 19-year-old from Birmingham City, who boasts a grown-up attitude, perfectly in proportion to his powerful physique.
“It has come so quick,” said Butland. “But hopefully I’ve shown people I’m more mature than my age. That’s important as a keeper, you have to be mature. You need experience under your belt, but age is just a number.
“It’s been a whirlwind year. It started with the Under-20 World Cup in Colombia and then going out on loan to Cheltenham, which was something I needed to do.
“That helped me with the Under-21s and eventually put me forward for the Euros and Olympics.”
Butland was on holiday with his girlfriend in Mexico when his summer exploded and he was called into England’s Euro 2012 squad after John Ruddy was injured.
“I turned my phone on when I got in the airport and it went mad with messages,” said Butland. “I just said, ‘We have to go home’.”
He cut short his trip, but as third choice did not play. However, Roy Hodgson could hand him a first senior international cap against Italy in Switzerland on Wednesday night.
“Luckily I have the family around me to make sure I don’t get ahead of myself, which is something I hate to see in players,” said Butland.
Butland has developed within the England youth system and featured in the Under-17 team which won the European Championship in 2010.
He was born into a rugby-loving family in Bristol and was a decent centre and No 8 before devoting his time to football at Birmingham.
“It was a two-and-a-half-hour journey on the train,” said Butland. “I’d go to school on Monday and then jump on a train to Birmingham.
“I’d stay Monday night and train all day Tuesday, then come home, go to school on Wednesday, back up to training in the afternoon after school and train all day Thursday.
“I’d come home on Thursday and then get the train back up to Birmingham on Friday night to play for the academy sides on a Saturday.
“I’d do my schoolwork on the train and have one-on-one lessons with one of my geography teachers on Friday lunchtime to catch up on the work I missed.
“It was something I needed to do and I passed my GCSE exams with two As, six Bs and a C.”
Last Saturday, Butland played his first game at St Andrew’s in a pre-season friendly and has told manager Lee Clark he wants to establish himself as Birmingham’s No 1 and play ‘40-plus’ games in the Championship this season, rather than warm the bench at a top-flight club. From there, he hopes to challenge Joe Hart for his place in the England team.
“He’s [Hart] not the only goalkeeper in England and for me it’s the target to test him and eventually try and take his place,” he said. ‘I’m good friends with Joe, but when it comes down to it only one person can wear the shirt and hopefully I’ll get that chance.”
— Daily Mail