World Cup not in Hughes' thinking
Published 11/01/2014 | 08:22
Stoke manager Mark Hughes insists he cannot allow Jack Butland's World Cup ambitions to affect his team selection.
The 20-year-old goalkeeper started the season as the Potters' third choice but with Asmir Begovic having broken a finger and Thomas Sorensen suffering an Achilles injury, he made his Barclays Premier League debut against Everton on New Year's Day.
He then played 90 minutes in the FA Cup third-round win over Leicester and is in contention to line up against Liverpool on Sunday.
Sorensen has returned to training and may be passed fit for the match, but Butland has done little to warrant being dropped.
Whatever decision Hughes makes, though, he has no intention of allowing Butland's international prospects to come into the equation.
Joe Hart, Fraser Forster and John Ruddy are the current England keepers, but a run of games in the top flight could easily see Butland, who earned one cap in 2012, move into contention.
"My intention is to make the right decisions for Stoke City - the World Cup doesn't come into my thinking," said Hughes.
"Jack understands and accepts that - I'll always do my best for Stoke first and foremost.
"And so will Jack, although he has ambitions to go to the World Cup, he knows he has to establish himself at this level."
Despite Hughes' words, he would have no qualms about pitching the former Birmingham stopper into action against a Liverpool side who have scored 44 goals in 20 matches this term.
As well as his solitary England appearance against Italy, Butland also played for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics and Hughes is confident he is ready to compete at the highest level.
"I have no worries about Jack - given how he acquitted himself when he came on at half-time for Thomas against Everton," said Hughes.
"He showed a lot of confidence and presence in the box, and against Leicester in the FA Cup what he had to do, he did really well.
"Jack is more than capable even though this would be his first start against an attack like Liverpool's.
"With a player like Luis Suarez, you have to accept that, with the talent he has, he will have an opportunity at some point in the game to test the keeper.
"That goes without saying. The team will create a chance for him, or he'll create it out of nothing.
"When that happens, then you need your keeper to earn his corn and make sure he doesn't capitalise."