x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

England goalkeeper's sharp rise to the top from League Two

From preparing to go on loan to second choice for England, Jack Butland has come a long way.

Jack Butland hopes to take the next giant step in what he describes as "an incredible journey" by making his England debut in tomorrow's friendly international with Italy.

Twelve months ago Birmingham City keeper Butland was preparing to go on loan to League Two side Cheltenham.

It was the start of a fairy tale climb up the footballing ladder which saw Butland called into the Euro 2012 squad and then be named as Team GB's No 1 for the Olympic Games.

Now an injury to Joe Hart means Butland, 19, who has still to play a competitive game for Birmingham, and Norwich's John Ruddy are battling it out to face the Italians in Berne in Switzerland.

Butland said: "If anyone said 'you will be part of the Euros and play in the Olympics before you played a professional game for Birmingham', I would have been very surprised.

"I can't fault it. It has been an incredible journey and I'm relishing it and I'm hoping more of it comes my way.

"To play for England is what dreams are made of.

"Unfortunately, it has come due to an injury but, if I get the chance, it will be a dream come true and something I can't stop thinking about.

"I'd love the chance to be able to perform on that stage on Wednesday night. If I get the chance, then fantastic."

Butland, who played at St Andrew's for the first time in a weekend pre-season friendly, added: "I'm not going to try and put too much pressure on myself and expect anything because not a lot of keepers get the chance at such a young age.

"I'm very privileged to be in this position but I'm going to try and take every bit in my stride. It is something I've been striving for. I understand I've got a long way to go but this is where I want to be and the top is where I want to play."

The top is a sharp contrast to life at Cheltenham, for whom Butland played 24 times last season, but he appreciates the importance of that spell in his development.

He said: "I suppose a lot of my exposure has come through international football and I've been lucky enough to represent most of the age groups.

"That has helped a great deal in my international development but also important was my experience at Cheltenham.

"I needed to go there and get that experience under my belt which eventually got me my chance in the Under 21s which led to the Euros and the Olympics.

"Everything has a trigger point and for me that was League Two."

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