Jack Butland impresses with Gareth Southgate watching on

By dsguser
30 April 2017

Jack Butland knew England boss Gareth Southgate would be watching him at Stoke and was delighted he could state his case for an international return with a clean sheet.

The 24-year-old goalkeeper made three key saves in the 0-0 draw with West Ham in just his second appearance since coming back from a 13-month injury lay-off.

Butland had been out of action having fractured his ankle when playing for the Three Lions in March 2016, with two proposed returns scuppered by further setbacks, and his inclusion in Stoke's team was the reason for Southgate's presence at the bet365 Stadium.

Southgate had swerved the Manchester derby on Thursday in favour of a rugby league contest, but Butland was aware he would be assessing him two days later with an eye on the June games with Scotland and France.

"I was aware that he was going to be there, I got the head's up earlier on in the week," Butland told BBC Sport.

"I'm really happy personally to come away with a clean sheet and I'm feeling even better, feeling comfortable. It was nice he was there to be able to see that.

" It was a good test. I'm really pleased with how I played."

Butland spent just one game on the bench before Mark Hughes recalled him at Swansea last weekend in favour of Lee Grant, who has been one of the Potters' best players since being drafted into the team in September.

Butland has sympathy for his fellow stopper even if he is pleased that his long-awaited return has arrived prior to the season's conclusion.

"Just knowing that I've managed to get through some games before the end of the season, and there's no question marks going into pre-season, it just puts everyone in a better position," he added of his situation.

"It doesn't take anything away from how well Lee's done because everyone's only got good things to say about how he's done."

The draw with the Hammers moved Stoke on to the 40-point mark, although they were unable to move into their desired target of the Premier League's top half and the prospect of finishing lower than ninth, the spot they achieved in Mark Hughes' previous three campaigns, has caused some discontent among supporters.

"The frustration's probably warranted, we know we can do better than we have and I think the fans know that," Butland admitted.

"It has been a tough couple of months, not quite reaching the heights that we know we can. It's still in our own hands. It (finishing in the top half) has always been a target for us and we're still going to try and aim for that."

West Ham's target remains avoiding relegation and though this was another point towards that objective, they could still be caught were those beneath the 15th-placed Hammers to end of the season in style.

Manager Slaven Bilic therefore knows the magnitude of Friday's derby clash with Tottenham when they could significantly dent, or even end, their London rivals' title quest too.

"We have tough games," Bilic said.

"It is good to have two home games but also we know we are playing Tottenham and Liverpool at home and then we have Burnley the last game of the season.

"The next game is massive on Friday night. For them and us, it can't be any bigger. Make no mistake, we will approach it in a positive manner."

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