Jack Butland not quite ready to return to action with Stoke and England
Jack Butland is still a number of weeks away from returning to action for Stoke and will miss England's matches against Scotland and Spain.
The 23-year-old goalkeeper has not played a match since suffering an ankle injury playing for England against Germany in March.
Butland appeared on the verge of securing the number-one spot for his country ahead of the European Championship but instead found himself watching from home.
More frustration followed when he suffered a setback in his recovery and underwent a second operation early in September.
That was expected to keep him out for a further six to 10 weeks but eight weeks later there appears no sign of an imminent return.
There is no chance he will be available for England's matches on November 11 and 15, and for Stoke boss Mark Hughes it has been a case of taking things slowly.
The Welshman said: "Jack was on the pitch on Tuesday. We're trying obviously to keep the level of progression on an even keel.
"It's not about big leaps in terms of his work, it's about taking a steady approach and making sure he doesn't react adversely to the increasing load day-on-day.
"It hasn't happened as yet so we're hopeful if we keep on that line then he'll get back and he'll be ready.
"He's still a number of weeks away yet from joining in with the squad. We've still got to be patient and Jack has to be patient. He can't force things too readily either."
Hughes admitted Butland has been champing at the bit, adding: "H e's got to be careful. He's got to be mindful that it's a process.
"With any injury, you've got to listen to what the physios say about what you can and can't do and how much you can do. He's got to be receptive to that, which he has been, so he's doing okay."
The silver lining for Hughes has been the form of Lee Grant, signed on loan from Derby following Butland's setback.
Grant has played a big part in Stoke's upturn in form, conceding only three goals in five matches, the last four of which have yielded eight points.
"Lee has done exceptionally well," said Hughes. "He's looked assured, confident and he's made crucial saves at key times.
"That's helped us build a platform for clean sheets and have the defensive shape and strength which maybe we lacked at times at the start of the season.
"We're grateful that he's here. He's taken his opportunity with both hands and we look really solid at the moment."