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Steve McClaren backs 'top-class' Jack Butland for England place


Stoke keeper Jack Butland kept Newcastle at bay

Stoke keeper Jack Butland kept Newcastle at bay

Stoke keeper Jack Butland kept Newcastle at bay

Steve McClaren hailed England prospect Jack Butland after seeing the Stoke keeper deny Newcastle victory with a breathtaking performance.

The 22-year-old produced four superb saves to ensure the Potters left St James' Park with a point at the end of a tense 0-0 draw.

McClaren, who handed Butland six loan appearances last season during his spell as Derby boss, said: "Goalkeepers are there to win you points and that's what Jack Butland does.

"He did it for us a few times at Derby last year - I remember very well - and he's done it again for Stoke today. I have seen him in other games.

"You need a top-class goalkeeper to get you points and Stoke have got one, and certainly England have."

Newcastle were repeatedly thwarted by Butland who, having needed the help of a post to keep out Aleksandar Mitrovic's first-half header, produced four increasingly impressive saves after the break to repel two efforts from Moussa Sissoko and one each from Ayoze Perez and substitute Jamaal Lascelles.

However, Stoke boss Mark Hughes, with tongue somewhat in cheek, played down his goalkeeper's heroics.

He said: "He made a couple of saves, but that's what he's paid to do. I didn't think Newcastle were peppering his goal, to be perfectly honest .

"But when we needed him in key moments in the game, that's when your goalkeeper has got to come to the fore, and he certainly did that.

"His best save was when Sissoko burst through - he spread himself really well - and then a couple of things he needed to do with a corner as well, which is pretty basic stuff for Jack and keepers of his quality.

"Yes, he had to make an impact and he has been able to do that."

Newcastle have won just one of their 11 Barclays Premier League games to date this season and remain in the bottom three, but McClaren is nevertheless convinced they are on the right track.

He said: "The key thing is, we look capable of winning games now. The first four, we didn't create any chances; now we are.

"We are playing good football, dominating opponents - the clean sheet was important - and in the cold light of day, anybody looking at that can see we are on the right lines."

The abrasive Mitrovic's battle with Stoke central defenders Philipp Wollscheid and Ryan Shawcross threatened to get out of hand at times, but Hughes had no problem with the Serbia international's contribution.

He said: "I don't mind that. It's part of the game, it's part of his make-up, it seems. I don't know the lad myself, but I was probably guilty of a few of those antics myself.

"I wouldn't be too hard on him because it would be the kettle calling the pot black."

Meanwhile, McClaren is facing up to a goalkeeping crisis after Rob Elliot limped off the pitch at the final whistle with a recurrence of the thigh injury which sidelined him last season.

With Tim Krul out for the rest of the campaign having undergone cruciate ligament surgery and Karl Darlow battling an ankle problem, 18-year-old Freddie Woodman is the club's only fit keeper.

McClaren said: "We are certainly looking at the situation and seeing what we can do because that's three of our senior goalkeepers injured."