England’s Butland Relishes Battle For Goalkeeping Slot

FILE PHOTO England’s goalkeeper Jack Butland (R) watches as England’s midfielder Dele Alli (L) helps England’s defender Joe Gomez during a training session at St George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent ahead of their international friendly football matches against the Netherlands on March 23 and Italy on March 27.    Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

England’s Jack Butland is backing manager Gareth Southgate’s policy of keeping his goalkeepers guessing as to who will be the number one for the World Cup in Russia.

The Stoke player is set to start against Italy at Wembley on Tuesday and needs to keep pace with Everton’s rising star Jordan Pickford, who made it two clean sheets from two appearances during Friday’s 1-0 win in the Netherlands.

Long-serving first-choice Joe Hart is also in the frame while uncapped Burnley man Nick Pope has also been training with the squad for the first time.

Southgate’s reluctance to nominate his preferred candidate with just three more friendlies before heading to Russia is controversial but Butland said the internal battle drives up standards.

“It’s a good thing isn’t it, having competition? I enjoy it,” he said.

“Training between all of us is extremely intense. Obviously it’s one we’re all trying to take for ourselves but ultimately whoever deserves it, whoever the manager feels, will get it and we’re all trying to do our bit to make sure it’s us.”

Butland said Southgate would make his decision when he is ready but until then the competition would be fierce.

“I think that’s a great way to go into a World Cup, the fact not knowing who it just yet shows the competition is great and whoever it will be is going to be coming off a battle, which is what we want,” he said.

Italy were also the opponents when Butland made his England debut in 2012, a 2-1 win in Bern.

At just 19 he became the youngest England goalkeeper but a series of injuries have seen him win just five more caps.

“Of course, six years ago, I was the youngest keeper to play for England and all of that, first cap, an incredible moment and I envisaged playing a lot more between then and now,” he said.

“But injuries happen and it was a massive setback for me. So I’ve dealt with bigger things than the odd (bad) performance, I’ve dealt with a hell of a long time out of the game.”

Liverpool defender Joe Gomez has been ruled out of the match with a left ankle injury suffered in his brief outing in Amsterdam.

AFP

Mahrez, Vardy Dedicate PFA Awards To Teammates

Jarmie Vardy Riyad Mahrez PFA AwardsLeicester City players, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy have dedicated their English football’s PFA awards to their teammates.

Mahrez, who is an Algerian, becomes the first African player to win a Professional Footballers Association (PFA) players award.

The Leicester City winger beat teammate, Vardy, Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Arsenal midfielder, Mesut Ozil to clinch the award.

Scoring 17 goals with 11 assists, Mahrez has been one of the main reasons behind Leicester’s phenomenal rise to the top of the English Premier League, sitting eight points clear with three games remaining.

Vardy, who has 22 goals for the league leaders was also honoured by the PFA for becoming the first player to score in 11 consecutive premier league matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile, Leicester City fans in Thailand are confident the team would lift their first league title this season.

Hundreds of blue-shirted Thai fans watched the league leaders’ 4-0 win over Swansea City on live screens in Bangkok.

The fans believed it was time to do the unthinkable in their club history.

Riyad Mahrez Wins PFA Player Of The Year

Riyad MahrezLeicester City attacking midfielder, Riyad Mahrez, has won the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year award.

The Algerian has scored 17 goals with 11 assists in the Premier League this season and has been a key force behind the Foxes’ unheralded title challenge.

Mahrez was voted by fellow professionals ahead of fellow nominees and team-mates Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante, along with Harry Kane, Mesut Ozil and Dimitri Payet.

Mahrez becomes the first African player to bag the prize. He said, “Its a pleasure to achieve this award.

“I want to thank my team mates because without them I wouldn’t achieve this.

“We are like brothers, it’s everywhere on the pitch. That’s our strength.

“If sometimes we are not good, we know we are going to run and make effort for our team-mates. That is the secret of our success.

Tottenham midfielder, Dele Alli picked up the PFA Young Player of Year award in his debut season in the Premier League.

The England youngster came out on top ahead of team-mate Harry Kane, Jack Butland, Philippe Coutinho, Romelu Lukaka and Ross Barkley.

Alli has scored 10 goals in 32 top-flight games to help Spurs challenge Leicester for the title. He has also made six senior appearances for England, scoring in a 2-0 friendly win over France in November 2015.

With a crucial game on Monday night, Alli could not attend the event to receive his award but former Spurs player and manager Ossie Ardiles collected the prize on his behalf.