Age is of no significance - Jack Butland
“IF you have enough experience and you can handle the pressure I don’t think age is of any significance.”
Those are the words of 19-year-old Jack Butland from Clevedon who last month became the youngest goalkeeper to ever play for England at senior level.
In July he was a regular fixture in the Great Britain men’s football team and just this week he has also been selected to be part of the England squad for World Cup qualifying matches against Moldova and Ukraine, to be played on Friday and Tuesday.
In an interview with the Times, the grounded player, who has been part of a whirlwind of media attention since being selected as part of the England squad to travel to the European championships in Poland and Ukraine earlier this summer, says he has his family to thank for his professional attitude to the game.
His parents, Matt and Jilly Butland, who now live in Kenn with his 14-year-old brother Harry, try to get to as many matches as they can to watch Jack play, either for his club Birmingham City or for England.
The former Clevedon School and Yeo Moor Primary School pupil said: “They have been incredible in helping me get to where I am. Not just in driving me to and from Birmingham but keeping my feet on the ground and helping me with everything that has happened so quickly.
“It’s great to have Harry around and he does his own thing competing in down hill mountain biking – he is pretty sporty too.”
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As a youngster Jack was a member of Clevedon United football club and it was there he began to regularly play in goal.
He said: “We had two teams – while playing for the A team I would play up front and for the B team I would play in goal.
“When they became one team I decided to stay in goal. It all started from there really.”
After studying for his GCSEs at Clevedon School, Jack joined the Birmingham City academy full-time. Before that he was able to train with the club at the age of 14 and 15 thanks to the fact he was allowed some time out of lessons.
He said: “If the school hadn’t let me go it might not have all happened how it has, so, thank you to them.”
In September last year, Jack went out on loan to League Two side Cheltenham Town and stayed with them until January. He rejoined them on a youth loan in February but was recalled to Birmingham in April when first-choice keeper Boaz Myhill was injured. However, he did not make his debut for Birmingham until August.
Despite travelling to the European championships with England in July, Jack made his debut for the senior squad in a friendly against Italy on August 15. At the age of 19 years and 158 days, he became England’s youngest ever goalkeeper.
He played the first half before being replaced by John Ruddy, who also made his England debut that evening, which saw the team win 2-1.
Jack said: “Playing for England is what any footballer dreams of.
“Finding out I was going to start and then getting on the pitch and singing the national anthem I suppose was a mix of excitement and anticipation.
“It was a very proud moment for me.
“All of the lads are brilliant and are 100 per cent professionals.
“Going to the Euros they took me in and showed me the ropes.
“Playing against Italy flew by but I was pleased with how I played and I don’t think I could’ve done anything else to stop the goal.”
Just three days after his England debut, Jack played his first match for Birmingham City.
He said: “It was something that was weighing on my mind as people were questioning the fact I hadn’t played for my club before playing for England.
“I am just looking forward to this season now and playing plenty more games for Birmingham.”
As a youngster, Jack grew up watching the likes of Peter Schmeichel and David Seaman in the Premiership and on the international stage.
Now, he looks up to England number one, Joe Hart, who he hopes to one day replace as the nation’s best goalkeeper.
Jack said: “I would like to emulate the success of Joe Hart and what he has achieved.
“It has been a fantastic year really and I hope it continues.
“There is a lot of talk about goalkeepers having to be experienced. If you have got enough and can handle the pressure I don’t think age is of any significance.”