Opinion: Jack Butland's return from injury could see Stoke City claim European football

Opinion: Jack Butland's return from injury could see Stoke City claim European football

The England international is set to return to action in a fortnight's time and his ability between the posts could see The Potters compete in Europe next season.

Lewis Downes

Stoke City endured a dire start to the Premier League season earning just three points from seven games.

Until a recent surge in form, seeing The Potters gain ten points from four games, Mark Hughes was favourite amongst bookmakers to be the first top flight boss given his marching orders.

Strength in depth will aid Stoke

Currently sat in 13th place, Stoke in comparison to the sides around them possess a much stronger squad. Names on the roster like Bojan Krkic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic suggest European Football is a likely target.

Last season Mark Hughes’s side fell just short of qualifying for the Europa League, as they were cemented in 9th place and tarred with the same brush as a ‘mid-table team’. Since entering the Premier League in 2008 the Staffordshire side have failed to muster a finish above said place. Such a feat was met with screams of joy previously, but such happiness has quickly turned to disappointment.

Stoke have managed to avoid becoming a ‘yo-yo club’, bouncing between divisions year on year. A great deal of money has been pumped into the team to ensure they register as an established Premier League side. Now such has been achieved further glory is sought after.

Butland is England’s future No.1

In March of last year, The Potters lost first choice goalkeeper Jack Butland who had been instrumental in the sides positive progression.

The England international suffered an ankle injury in a friendly against Germany prior to the start of Euro 2016. Following impressive performances at club level the 23-year-old could have stripped Joe Hart of England’s number one jersey, and things may have been rosier for The Three Lions this summer. However, this was not meant to be.

Butland could return to action in two weeks’ time after it was announced the former Birmingham City goalkeeper is back in training.

Grant may lose his place despite good performances

The player’s imminent arrival is good news on the whole, but replacement shot stopper Lee Grant will be wary that his counterpart now waits in the wing for his opportunity.  

When asked if he would drop Grant once Butland is fully fit to play, Mark Hughes said: "It's a difficult decision when the time comes around but we've got to get Jack back first. He made such a huge impact for us."

Hughes added: "Lee has done far better than we could have anticipated. He understood that that he was coming in as a back up 'keeper but fair play to him he's grabbed the opportunity with both hands."

With Gareth Southgate expected to be named as the new England boss anytime soon, Butland will be wanting to stake his claim for the spot between the posts as quickly as possible.

With an eagerness to impress and improve Mark Hughes’s side will surely flourish with the players return and possibly improve on their mid-table status.

Another impressive season could see Butland move on to bigger and better things, so it is crucial Hughes’s exploits the goalkeepers full potential.