Jack Butland has hailed the influence of his “hero” Joe Hart as he tries to replace him as England’s No 1 goalkeeper this summer at the World Cup.
Stoke City goalkeeper Butland is now competing with Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope to be England’s No 1 in Russia after Hart was dropped by Gareth Southgate following a disappointing season on loan at West Ham United. Hart was left crestfallen by the news and Butland, speaking at St George’s Park on Tuesday afternoon, revealed that he has spoken to him since the squad was announced last week. He said that Hart was “gutted”, and he was gutted for his hero too.
Butland was full of praise for Hart, both for his career with England and Manchester City but also for how he helped younger goalkeepers throughout his career.
“I think we all thought ‘wow’”, said Butland about his reaction to Hart not making the squad. “I’ve spoken to Joe. I know he’s devastated to miss out and I’m gutted for him. I’ve known Joe a very long time and Joe’s one of my heroes, I told him myself.”
Hart shot to prominence with a loan spell at Birmingham City in 2009-10, the club that Butland went on to make his name at before joining Stoke. Butland said that Hart has always been an inspiration to him for his displays for club and country.
“When I was coming through at Birmingham – as a goalkeeper, as a person, I admired him,” Butland revealed. “I wanted to be where he was, I wanted to be the No 1 for Birmingham and the No 1 for England and he was all those things. As we’ve got older, certainly the last couple of years, I’ve seen and learned more from Joe than I ever could have [dreamed of].”
Hart has had a difficult two years, struggling for England at Euro 2016, being dropped by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City then being loaned out to Torino and West Ham. But Butland praised how Hart has dealt with that situation, and how he has continued to help the younger goalkeepers in the England set-up.
“What he’s been through and the humility that he’s dealt with things, despite everything that’s gone on,” Butland said. “He’s always been the first one to congratulate whoever’s played, be it me, Jordan or Tom, be it friendlies or qualifiers. Joe has been the first person there. He’s always been the first person congratulating people off the pitch, geeing people up for the game. That shows more about Joe as a person and character than any of the saves or great performances he’s had throughout his career.”
That has made a real impression on Butland, a confident 25-year-old who is now ready to take the next step in his career. “I think that’s been the biggest lesson I could have learned, just the way Joe’s been through the hardest times of his career. I owe a lot to him personally. To see him miss out, I’m gutted and I know he is as well.”
This is why Butland reached out to Hart after last week’s news, and why he will continue to value his guidance at this World Cup and beyond. “I texted him and just said ‘I’m absolutely gutted for you’. He’s been my hero since I was 14 years old and I still look up to him now. It was important for me to tell him that because you don’t often get opportunities to tell people what you really think about them. If Joe had been here that conversation never gets had. It was a nice way for me to be able to speak to him and for him to respond and chat about it.
“It was really important to me and hopefully he valued that as well.”
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