Jack Butland has revealed he made an emotional call to “hero” Joe Hart after finding out the latter would not be joining him in England’s World Cup squad.
After three tournaments as the country’s undisputed number one Hart’s modest form at West Ham saw him discarded for this summer’s trip to Russia at the 11th hour, leaving Butland to contest the jersey with Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope.
It was a crushing blow for Hart, who started nine out of 10 qualifiers and boasts 75 caps compared to a combined total of nine between the chosen trio.
And while Butland was glad to hear his own good news having suffered relegation with Stoke, his thoughts immediately turned to a man he has drawn inspiration from throughout his professional career.
“I’ve spoken to Joe. I know he’s devastated to miss out and I’m gutted for him,” said Butland, who is six years Hart’s junior.
“He’s been my hero since I was 14 years old and I still look up to him now. It was important for me to tell him that because you don’t often get opportunities to tell people what you really think about them.
“If Joe had been here that conversation never gets had. It was really important to me and hopefully he valued that as well.
“When I was coming through at Birmingham I admired him as a goalkeeper and as a person. I wanted to be where he was – I wanted to be the number one for Birmingham and the number one for England and he was all those things.
“As we’ve got older, certainly the last couple of years, I’ve seen and learned more from Joe than I ever could have (expected).”
As well as being close to Hart, Butland also has a strong friendship with Gordon Banks – his most illustrious predecessor with both club and country.
Banks is not only the nation’s finest ever goalkeeper but a key part of England’s World Cup winning side in 1966 and an ongoing inspiration to the current generation.
“Gordon came to the (Stoke) training ground, he brought along his World Cup medal and it was a lot smaller than I thought it would be actually,” recalled Butland with a smile.
“He also brought a signed photo of him and Pele – that save – and gave that to me. I’ve got a lot of connection with Gordon and although it was a long time ago it’s one of my biggest motivations…he’s done it and I know he’d love me to do it as well.
“You have those little epiphanies in your head where you zone out for a minute and dream. I’ve had plenty of them.”
Gareth Southgate has yet to announce who will begin the tournament in goal, with Pickford and Butland thought to be scrapping it out ahead of the uncapped Pope.
Fabio Capello gave Rob Green just two hours notice that he would start in similar circumstances eight years ago and, while Butland hopes for clarity sooner than that, he is happy the debate is still open.
“I’m not quite sure it will be two hours this time – at least I hope not,” he said.
“But the fact that it’s still up for grabs is incentive for everyone to play at the highest level, train at the highest level. It’s a great position to be in. You’re after that competition because it drives you on further.
“It’s a decision only the manager can make – we can only put forward our case and show what we’re all about.
“Whichever way the manager goes we all have to support it because we are all in this together and that’s the way it is.”