Another round of international fixtures is upon on us and with it the usual lack of interest. When England play friendlies so many people see them as even more of an annoyance.
The only real topic fans have discussed is who should play and if it’s a time to try out new faces, and the loudest cries have been for Jack Butland to be tested as England’s number one.
The Stoke City ‘keeper is having an impressive season. It looks like shrewd business from Mark Hughes now, having offloaded Asmir Begovic to Chelsea for £8m and installed a youngster that already appears to be his equal.
He has kept several clean sheets in the Premier League so far this term, cutting an authoritative figure between the sticks. There’s no doubt he’s a promising talent. With that in mind it should come as no surprise that the media bandwagon has already rolled into town to hype him up.
The problem with demanding Butland plays for England is two-fold. Firstly, the number of games or minutes is an issue. Many pundits have been saying he should play the full 90 in all the upcoming games. If this was to be the case it would ruin the already shaky validity of the matches.
What’s the point of facing tough opposition to test systems for the Euros if it turns into an experiment on personnel? Joe Hart needs game time against better attackers with what he will assume will be his defence moving forward.
Which leads us into the second part of the problem. There’s an eagerness to present Hart a direct rival. Most people are suggesting this in a healthy respect, every number one needs an understudy that keeps him on his toes. However, there are a few that seem a little too keen to dislodge Hart. The same wouldn’t be true if he was wearing a Manchester United jersey each week.
This desperation to shoehorn Butland into the number one slot is bad for the youngster. Twelve league games doesn’t make the man. His fans should be taking baby steps with his development. Being a goalkeeper places a player in a unique position. If a rookie striker misses an open net he can forget about it and score the next week.
But if a ‘keeper has a howler it’s similar to when a boxer takes a massive knock-out punch. Some come back stronger but many are haunted forever. Spare a thought for David James – an undeniable young talent who earned the prestigious title of ‘Calamity’.
There’s a good chance Butland will feature against either Spain or France but it should be viewed as a cameo. It’s not the time to start a head-to-head fight for the national number one jersey. Doing so does Joe Hart a disservice and places Butland in the position prematurely.
The best thing for player and country is to have a forgetful international break and get back to proving his talent on a weekly basis in the Premier League.