WHY I SAID NO TTO O CHELSEA’S MIL­LIONS

But­land: I didn’t fancy bench

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Ger­ard Meagher

SOME see a move to Chelsea as a ticket to the Cham­pi­ons League at a club bankrolled by a Rus­sian bil­lion­aire. Jack But­land saw it as a seat on the bench and turned it down.

But­land has long been des­tined for big things since he helped Chel­tenham’s pro­mo­tion push last sea­son, the 20-year-old was al­ready an Eng­land goal­keeper in wait­ing.

Although he was on Birm­ing­ham’s books, he made his­tory as the only player who had never played in the top three flights to be part of Eng­land’s Euro 2012 squad and Great Bri­tain’s Olympic side.

He didn’t play in Poland and Ukraine, but he en­hanced his rep­u­ta­tion at Lon­don 2012 and came away with some Pre­mier League of­fers to con­sider.

Liver­pool were said to be in­ter­ested, and Chelsea also saw But­land as the long-term suc­ces­sor to the 30-year-old Petr Cech.

But But­land did his home­work. He knew that keeper Ross Turn­bull moved from Mid­dles­brough to Chelsea in 2009 and has made just seven league ap­pear­ances in nearly four years. Chelsea also have highly-rated Bel­gian Thibaut Cour­tois, cur­rently im­press­ing on loan at Atletico Madrid.

But it sur­prised a few peo­ple when But­land made a £3.5m move to Stoke – choos­ing the Pot­ter­ies over the Stam­ford Bridge riches in Jan­uary and then be­ing loaned back to Birm­ing­ham. “It’s all about what is right for my devel­op­ment at this stage of my ca­reer. This was only my first sea­son in the Cham­pi­onship and the key for me is to con­tinue to play games,” said But­land, who be­came Eng­land’s youngest ever keeper in Au­gust, when he started the friendly against Italy at the age of 19.

“I’m very grate­ful for the chances I’ve been given at Birm­ing­ham but this was the right time to move on. It had noth­ing to do with the fi­nances at the club or any­thing like that. This is about what’s right for my ca­reer. At Stoke I will get the chance to fight for my place, es­tab­lish my­self as the No.1 keeper and play against Pre­mier League play­ers ev­ery week. The one thing I’ve learned from the ex­pe­ri­ence of go­ing to the Eu­ros is that hav­ing play­ers like Wayne Rooney, Frank Lam­pard and Steven Ger­rard shoot­ing at you im­proves you, and I need to be do­ing that ev­ery week.

“But of course I want to fin­ish my Birm­ing­ham ca­reer on a high and push up the ta­ble as much as we can and so that’s my main fo­cus at the moment and then I will start a new chap­ter.”

But­land has clearly not been blinded by the lights of his rise and he has a re­fresh­ing self-aware­ness of his cur­rent place in the food chain – con­tent to be back in the Eng­land U21 squad af­ter Ben Fos­ter de­cided to come back from in­ter­na­tional re­tire­ment, and Fraser Forster hit form for Celtic.

But he does bris­tle with am­bi­tion, and re­mains des­per­ate to prove him­self at the very top.

“It doesn’t really mat­ter to me when I’m pulling on the Eng­land shirt. It can be for the 21s or the se­niors, you’re still rep­re­sent­ing your coun­try,” added But­land, who has kept clean sheets in his last four Eng­land U21 matches.

“It was the best feel­ing and the best moment of my ca­reer against Italy. I was al­most pinch­ing my­self, and ob­vi­ously I want to do it more of­ten but it’s all part of my devel­op­ment.

“If I had been in­volved with the se­niors re­cently I’d have been on the bench at best but with the 21s I’m get­ting the game time and the clean sheets and that can only be a good thing.

“Next year I’ll be in the Pre­mier League and hopefully show­ing what I can do by play­ing reg­u­larly, that is what is most im­por­tant for my ca­reer at the moment.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

LION-HEART: But­land would rather play games for Stoke than watch them at Stam­ford Bridge Be­low: Sign­ing au­to­graphs dur­ing Eng­land train­ing

NUM­BER ONE: Chelsea’s Petr Cech

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