Butland: I don't think it has sunk in yet
Jack Butland has admitted the shock of signing for Manchester United is yet to sink in, following his loan switch from Crystal Palace until the end of the 2022/23 season.
The 29-year-old is set to bolster Erik ten Hag's goalkeeping department, following Martin Dubravka's recent recall by parent club Newcastle United.
Now set to join David De Gea, Tom Heaton and Nathan Bishop in working between the sticks, Butland has spoken candidly about his lifelong affiliation for the club, and his footballing journey so far, whilst also sharing his past experiences of playing at Old Trafford.
Signing a short-term deal with the club, the former Stoke City man spoke exclusively to club media, and you can now read, and watch what he had to say upon arriving at Carrington...
''I am over the moon. It has been a whirlwind few days but to call yourself a Manchester United player, is pretty awesome and I don't think it has quite sunk in yet.''
What attracted you to the club at this stage of your career?
''I don't think that is a difficult question to answer, to be honest. It's arguably the best club in the world, it's a club I grew up watching as a kid. I had the shirts, my name and number seven on the back, even though I didn't end up as a winger. It's always been a bit of a fairytale thing for me and the opportunity to come here, in the sort of upturn that club has sort of had after a difficult few years, you could say. With the history, the power and the presence the club still has, there is never a bad time to join Manchester United. I think things seem to be progressing in a very pleasing direction. What an opportunity it is to be a part of that.''
When were you aware that the move might be on?
''There had sort of been rumblings all year, they started in the summer. Then, ironically, I broke my hand playing against United in Australia on the pre-season tour which put a bit of a stopper to that. I have really just focused on getting fit again and then here we are. The last sort of week, it's bubbled up again and the contact was there. The opportunity then became an option and we took it.''
''What do you expect? The people firstly, there are way too many names to remember all at once. People have been incredible with me already, all of the staff and I have obviously met quite a few of the players already. Everyone is so welcoming, and lovely and positive - that's sort of the backbone of it. Yes, the facilities are wicked and the training facilities, and the people and the history of the club, which is huge. It's been a great first few hours and I am excited to see what the rest is going to be like.''
You mentioned you used to have United shirts growing up as a kid, a number seven. Were there any particular players you liked?
''I remember growing up in Bristol at the time, the football teams weren't exactly reaching the heights of Man United at the time. I remember when I was six years old in 1999, all you could see on the TV was United and what a season that was. That was my first real visions of that fairytale football and United was it. That was sort of where it began for me and the number seven was really [David] Beckham-related, but I don't really have that free-kick ability like him. I ended up with the gloves on.''
There is a really strong goalkeeping unit here, so how much are you looking forward to working with them, the coaches and the players too like David and Tom?
''I have obviously known Tom [Heaton] for a long time, I know what Tom is about. What a great guy and what a great goalkeeper he is. I am really looking forward to training with David [De Gea], someone who has been at the top of his game for such a long time, and who has also has a lot of history and respect here at the club. It's a great opportunity for me to train with him but also test myself against him as well. Also just to train alongside the guys and push each other. I spoke to Richard Hartis, the goalkeeper coach, as well and there is a mutual excitement between ourselves to get going and get the goalkeeper gloves on. I am excited to get going and get out there with them.''
Do you know anyone else in the squad? Maybe from England squads or playing against them in the past?
''I know a few of the lads obviously from the England set-up. Marcus [Rashford], Harry [Maguire], Luke [Shaw] to name a few. Jadon [Sancho] obviously, as well. I lived in the area previously so I would sometimes bump into them too. Now to call them team-mates is a pretty cool thing and I am looking forward to training with them.''
''Difficult. I think I remember a certain Wayne Rooney having a good day, but I think I played at Old Trafford for Team GB back in 2012, which was a hell of an experience. So I have played there and that was a positive day, not so much against United when I mentioned the Rooney show. Everything that comes with United and Old Trafford, it is special and to be able to hopefully represent the club as a home player would be pretty cool.''
What are your ambitions as a United player right now?
''To succeed. I think that's what the club is trying to do again and to be a winning team again. Having spoken to the manager, he is very much about being a group collective and everyone playing a part. I believe I can bring something to the team, on and off the pitch, in whatever way I can, and it's about being at the business end of the season and being a Man United player is about winning trophies and winning things. Hopefully, that's the direction, it feels that's the direction the club is heading in and, yeah, to be a part of that would be special and that's ultimately the achievement for all of us that are a part of that.''
For those of us that don't know you, can you give us a brief history of your playing career and what your strengths are to your game?
''Tough question. I started kicking a ball from as young as I can remember, football always wasn't my main thing: I loved playing all sports and, once I got to secondary school, and football from there took for me. I got the opportunity to join Birmingham City's Academy and I spent five amazing years there, where I learnt so much. I made England appearances there and got into the England squad, you mentioned the Olympics. The 2012 Euros, I went to as a Birmingham player and so much happened there which was so important at the beginning of my career. I then went to Stoke and had a series of loan moves, whilst getting some experience at a higher level. Before playing for Stoke, when my first appearance was God knows how many years ago now, 2014 sort of thing. What a great time I had there and that then led me to more England caps and more major tournaments, including the 2018 World Cup. I then joined Crystal Palace which is where I've been for the last few years, which has been a great experience for me. An awesome club, a real family club that has sort of which, I feel, brought me to my best again, which has led to this opportunity now, which like I said earlier, is not one you say no to.''
What age were your when you realised you were pretty good at football and you could have a career?
''I don't think there was ever that moment, it just happened pretty quick from playing Sunday League football to getting an opportunity with Birmingham's Academy. Six to 12 weeks later, making my first appearance for England's schoolboy team at Under-15s in the Victory Shield tournaments. Within a six-month period, it was such a crazy period for me and one that, ever since, I have never really looked back. That's the beauty of football and things can happen quick. That was sort of where it all took off for me.''
''I didn't start to play in goal since I was about 13 years old. There was a player for Clevedon United, and I was a striker at the time, scoring goals, but the goalkeeper got injured. Someone else went in goal and hated it, me being me, I think we started conceding goals and not doing too well, so I was like give me the gloves and let me have a go. From there, I sort of just fell in love with it and, for a couple of years, I still played for the A team up front and the B team in goal. It was as a goalkeeper I got spotted and it was taken out of my hands for me, but I loved it and the love for being in goal started there.''
Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
''My parents have always driven me and given me the opportunities and have always backed me, so they are going to be the backbone of everything I have done. Growing up where we did, we weren't in the catchment areas of big clubs, so it was always travel and a bit of a distance to get to places, so those guys taking the time to do the miles after work and drag me around, I will always owe them a tremendous amount of gratitude and they know that. I also think I have been lucky to have some great coaches. My early days at Birmingham, there were some great goalkeepers that came on loan that I have learnt from. I have had some really good role models throughout my career, too many to mention. One was a famous goalkeeper for the other side of Manchester, but Joe [Hart] was and is still like a big brother to me. I think I have been lucky to have some great role models.''
Do you have a most memorable part of your career so far?
''My England debut was an iconic one for me. That day, I became the youngest goalkeeper to play for England, which took a while to set in. Thankfully, that record still stands and hopefully it stands for a very, very long time. It came at a time where, like I said, I was on that trend and things were just happening and it was something that took a while for me to process. I would have to say my England debut, for sure.''
We have seen you do some great work with charities in the past. How important is it to give back and support things like the charity and the foundation here?
''It's vitally important. As players at football clubs, what we do is we try to put a show on for the community, we love playing football and, ultimately, if nobody comes to watch you play, there is nobody that gets to enjoy that and support the club from a distance. Whether that be in the stands or, like you say, in the community, we have a great responsibility and opportunity to give back and include them. I have been fortunate to be at clubs where that is at the forefront of what they do and it's a very important thing and, of course, this club is no different. I am looking forward to what that might be and how I can help. That's what it is all about.''
''A very unique one. It's the first, may have been the only time with us being the host, that we put a football team in and that was perhaps why. I am very fortunate to have been able to have the opportunity to do what not many people have been able to do. To experience the Olympic Village, to get to play at top stadiums like the Millennium Stadium, Wembley and Old Trafford as well for the first time. So there were a few dreams ticked off and a few things you think would maybe never happen as a player to represent yourself in the Olympics. It was certainly a unique scenario and it wasn't a home crowd as such as they were supporting us, so I wasn't against the United fans. A full crowd at Old Trafford is always something to enjoy and I certainly did that day.''
Was it different to an England camp given there was players from Scotland, Wales etc?
''We were travelling across the country, moving from hotel to hotel and we fortunately got to experience the Olympic Village, where we got to see some of our heroes from other sports. The late Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, seeing those guys walk past in the Olympic Village was pretty special and that's just part of the journey that football takes you to, it gets to take you to some amazing places and see incredible things.''
Outside of football on your days off, what do you like to do?
''Other than spend time with my family I do like to play golf. I'm not sure whether the manager is a fan of golf, so we will have to check with him. I like to chill out, nothing too special, but it is nice to be back up in the north and I am looking forward to seeing some of the new guys and seeing what they get up to and see what we can do.''
How would you describe yourself as a character?
''Positive, I like to be positive. I like to be involved and I like to get involved in any way you can. I guess I like to be a leader, I don't think you necessarily need an armband for that and I like to be positive and encouraging. The feel I get from the squad, the management and the staff right now is that's the way it feels and that's what you want to be involved in. Hopefully, I can add to that.''