England U21 goalkeeper Jack Butland‘s loan switch to Barnsley from Stoke City is crucial to his career.
Having signed for the Premier League club under Tony Pulis‘ control in January, his game time has looked extremely sparse under new boss Mark Hughes. This move to Barnsley may be seen as a step back, but its importance cannot be underestimated.
At 20, he needs game time, and there is no denying that. Given Butland’s high expectations after his remarkable 2012 rise to the top, he needs to actually progress and do his talking on the pitch. To be fair to him, I think that has been his sole intention; he reportedly turned down talks with Chelsea because he knew he wouldn’t be getting games there at this stage of his career.
Stoke however, seemed like a chance for him to become a Premier League keeper — and a chance he couldn’t pass up.
The change in management has probably been the key. Barnsley may be a Championship side and like so many times before, we have seen English keepers fail to progress at that level. However, Stoke were never going to loan him to a Premier League rival who all happen to have decent keepers anyway.
The 93-day loan will really give him enough game time and the chance to grab Hughes’ eye, and maybe other clubs’ before January. Stoke’s no. 1 Asmir Begovic has started the season poorly, so the door has been opened ever so slightly. Butland now has the chance to answer those doubters and show once again what a prospect he is.
If England reaches the 2014 World Cup, there is likely to be a third choice keeper spot up for grabs — one that Butland has a good chance to claim.
Game time is the key. Without that, the performances are not even in the equation. This loan gives him that chance, which will set him back on the right path. It’s crucial.