Jack Butland edging closer to Stoke return but could face selection battle
Published 18/11/2016 | 10:26
England goalkeeper Jack Butland is nearing a return to the Stoke squad following an eight-month injury absence.
Butland has not featured for the Potters since March after suffering a fractured ankle during England's 3-2 friendly win in Germany.
It was originally hoped he would recover in time for the start of the Premier League season, but the 23-year-old was forced to undergo another operation after damaging scar tissue around the initial injury in training in August.
Butland resumed training last month and has made progress during the international break, with Stoke boss Mark Hughes hopeful he might be able to rejoin the squad sometime around the turn of the month.
"Jack is progressing really well. We had to get to the root of the problem and we understand that now," said Hughes.
"He isn't fully up to speed yet but we are hopeful that if he has a good week next week then he will be back within the senior group. We are encouraged by the last couple of weeks for him because previously he would get so far and then break down again.
"First and foremost though we need to get him fully fit and back to the level he was at last season. That is the only thing that we are thinking about at the moment."
Lee Grant's form means there is no rush for Butland to return. Grant, signed on loan from Derby at the end of the summer transfer window, came into the team at the start of Stoke's current six-match unbeaten run in the Premier League which has seen them concede four goals.
"It's going to be difficult when Jack is back because Lee has been fantastic," said Hughes, who it is understood would like to keep Grant beyond when his loan deal ends at the start of January.
"Lee has come in and been exceptional. He understood the circumstances that he was coming into, but he has stood up to the challenge and has exceeded everybody's expectations."
Glenn Whelan is an injury concern for Stoke as they prepare to resume Premier League action at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.
Whelan suffered a hamstring injury during the international break, limping off midway through the first half of the Republic of Ireland's win in Austria last weekend, while fellow midfielder Geoff Cameron is still injured.
United States international Cameron has missed the last two matches after hyper-extending his knee and has suffered a setback in his bid to regain full fitness.
Better news for Hughes sees Marko Arnautovic return from suspension while Xherdan Shaqiri has recovered from his hamstring problem and is back in contention.
Hughes said: "Glenn is a doubt, b ut as always with Glenn he's going to give himself the best opportunity to play. He hasn't really got much time to recover you would have thought - and with anybody else you would say they are definitely out.
"Hopefully as it's him he will be okay, but as it stands he's a doubt.
"Shaq is fine, but Geoff, unfortunately, won't be available as he has had a little bit of an issue with the knee that needed calming down and we've been told that he just needs to rest a little longer."