By Tom McKeown
When Birmingham City goalkeeper Jack Butland joined League Two side Cheltenham Town on loan at the start of the season, he probably wouldn't have entertained the idea of being on the plane as part of England’s Euro 2012 squad nearly nine months later.
But an unfortunate injury for Norwich keeper John Ruddy means the 19-year-old has been called into Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad, propelling the youngster straight into the big time.
At six feet four inches, Butland is an imposing presence, and he has used his stature to keep eleven clean sheets in 24 appearances for Cheltenham this season, conceding only 26 goals and helping them to a play-off final.
He joined the Birmingham academy in 2007, and first represented England at Under-16 level, making his debut in October 2008 against Northern Ireland.
Since then Butland has played for England at various age levels, and was called up to the Under-20 squad for the 2011 Under-20 World Cup in Colombia. During that tournament he kept clean sheets in all three group games, letting only one goal in against Nigeria which proved to be England’s downfall as they failed to score.
His performances did not go unnoticed by Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce, who selected Butland in his side’s 6-0 victory over Azerbaijan Under-21s in a Euro 2013 qualifier, and he has since gone on to make a total of six appearances.
GOALKEEPER | BIRMINGHAM CITY
When Cheltenham manager Mark Yates drafted in the youngster on loan in September 2011, it was originally meant to be as cover for Scott Brown, who had made 107 consecutive appearances for the Robins since 2008. But Yates threw Butland straight into the first team against Macclesfield and the young keeper hasn't looked back since.
Much of the credit for Butland’s success has been put down to his time at Birmingham’s academy under coach Dave Watson, formerly a keeper at Barnsley.
Watson has nurtured the talents of former England keeper Ben Foster and current number one Joe Hart during their time at St Andrew’s, and looks to have moulded another potential England shot-stopper in the form of Butland.
Manager Chris Hughton wisely tied the 19-year-old down to a lengthy contract, keeping him with Birmingham until 2015, by which time he may have represented England at a World Cup, with the tournament in Rio de Janeiro taking place in 2014.
Butland recently expressed gratitude for his time at Whaddon Road this season, believing it has improved him as a player.
He told BBC Sport in November: “It's about preparing yourself and making the most of that opportunity and hopefully I've done that.
"It's been a really good experience and I've enjoyed every minute of it.”
Having been recalled to Birmingham in April following an injury to Boaz Myhill, Butland was not set to feature for Cheltenham in the League Two play-off final against Crewe on Sunday, but consolation for the youngster takes form in the place of a call-up to the England squad.
Butland will join up with Roy Hodgson's men next week and could feature in the friendly against Belgium on June 2, earning what could be the first of many international caps.
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