Mark Hughes: Stoke have got to the bottom of Jack Butland's injury
Stoke manager Mark Hughes is confident the club have finally got to the bottom of Jack Butland's ankle injury.
However, the England goalkeeper faces up to another three months on the sidelines after undergoing a further operation - meaning he is facing the prospect of going a year without playing.
Butland has not played a competitive game since fracturing his ankle in England's friendly win in Germany on March 27 and he has suffered a number of setbacks in his recovery.
The 23-year-old was set to play in Stoke's Premier League opener at Middlesbrough but pulled out after aggravating the problem. After surgery in September he was due to play in an Under-23s game earlier this month, only to withdraw after feeling pain in the warm-up.
Butland went under the knife again last week and Hughes hopes his player can now put the injury behind him for good and begin to get his career back on track.
"He's probably looking at two to three months. Hopefully we'll get him back before the end of the season," said Hughes.
"The story on the injury was that there were issues in the ankle in terms of the fracture, some were addressed and some weren't and some were missed. The fracture where the bone came away was clearly fixed but there was an underlying stress fracture that wasn't showing up on scans unfortunately and that explains the pain he was feeling.
"He shouldn't get any complications now. We now feel and everybody feels comfortable that the ankle is sound and the issue within the ankle has been resolved and now he just needs the bones to heal.
"Once they do he will be fine but i t's going to be long time and it's a year out of his career.
"You can console him a little bit by saying he's a young man and he's still got a hell of a lot of his career ahead of him but i t's a setback because he was playing exceptionally well and that's probably what is difficult for Jack to comprehend or deal with because at the point of the injury he was playing for England and doing exceptionally well for us.
"He's clearly upset by it but his attitude is very mature, he understands that these things happen in football and you've just got to deal with it, wait for things to heal and get on with it."
Butland's latest setback has increased Stoke's need to sign another goalkeeper, with Lee Grant their preferred choice as he continues to impress while on loan from Derby.
However, the two clubs remain some way apart in their valuation of Grant, whose stay at the Bet365 Stadium comes to an end on January 3, 2017, but Hughes was hoping for an update ahead of the weekend.
He said: "We've had a couple of days off so we need to sit down again and see where we are up to.
"We are hopeful because clearly ourselves and Lee want to. We are prepared to pay the level we think we need to, probably with a premium on top because he's done so well, but at the moment we can't get a deal done."