Belfast Telegraph

Win at Southampton provides confidence boost for Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland

Jack Butland has spoken of the satisfaction he has taken from his end to the season after excelling in Stoke's 1-0 victory at Southampton on Sunday.

The goalkeeper, 24, was restricted to only five appearances in the 2016-17 campaign after fracturing his right ankle playing in England's 3-2 win away to Germany in March 2016.

Stoke had a difficult start to the season in his absence, until their player of the year Lee Grant was recruited.

However even amid Grant's fine form, Butland has recovered his starting position and demonstrated his value by repeatedly denying Southampton at St Mary's.

Sunday's fixture brought his second clean sheet since he returned to first-team football a month ago.

Butland told his club's official website: "There's been some rusty moments I've not been pleased with, some really good ones as well, but I couldn't ask for a better finish (to the season) than to come away with a 1-0 win, a clean sheet, and be able to contribute in the second half.

"It fills me with confidence going into the summer.

"That's a couple (of clean sheets) since I've come back and the feeling never gets old. Mixed emotions about this season now, I want it to carry on, but then I also want to put this season behind me, get away, and come back again in pre-season.

"I don't know when the (next England) squad's being announced, so fingers crossed I can be a part of it.

"(My ankle is) brilliant, it has been since I've been given the all-clear. I don't feel anything, it feels strong, and I'm really, really comfortable with it."

Despite defeat Southampton secured an eighth-placed Premier League finish, and amid speculation surrounding the future of their manager Claude Puel, their midfielder Oriol Romeu was insistent they have had a good season.

They also reached February's EFL Cup final where they narrowly lost to Manchester United, and the 25-year-old told Southampton's official website: "We have to be positive about the overall season because there have been some great moments.

"There are things to improve upon and get better though, of course.

"To finish eighth just behind top clubs, it's not an easy league and every game is very hard to get points.

"We need to be happy and to be positive. There are things to learn and things to improve upon and next year we want to make sure some things don't happen again."

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