WHY I SAID NO TTO O CHELSEA’S MILLIONS
Butland: I didn’t fancy bench
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.”
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