Stoke manager Mark Hughes has reiterated that he believes Jack Butland is the “natural keeper” England boss Gareth Southgate should be selecting.
Potters stopper Butland is one of four goalkeepers Southgate has chosen for October’s fixtures with Slovenia and Lithuania, though Joe Hart has started each of the eight World Cup qualifiers so far.
Butland, 24, has only played 45 minutes of international football since fracturing his ankle against Germany in March 2016, with a series of setbacks keeping him out for over a year.
Hughes, who also managed Hart while at Manchester City, believes his Stoke keeper deserves to be England’s number one, yet he is not expecting Southgate to change his mind for the final two qualifiers.
“It’s not my decision, it’s a decision for Gareth Southgate (but) if there was a decision to be made, or if Gareth was thinking of making a decision, then my view is he’s the natural keeper to go with,” Hughes said of Butland.
“But given that Joe was picked in the previous two qualifiers I would think that would send a message to everybody that the likelihood is Joe Hart – who is a very accomplished keeper as well, I have to say – is more likely to keep his place.
“If Jack is called upon he will be ready, both physically and mentally. He’s ready for that role if it’s presented to him.
“It has to be on form as well, I think Jack’s playing well. Every manager will have a number of factors they have to think about in terms of the dynamic of the group and trust and loyality to players that have done well for them in the past. All those things come into a manager’s mind when they have to make a big decision. I’ll leave it to Gareth.
“Jack loves being part of the England set-up. He wants to be the number one, he’s been quoted on the record as saying that. He’s an ambitious guy and wants to get to the top of the game.
“That mindset’s not going to change, in fact it will become more ingrained I would think leading towards the (World Cup) tournament itself.
“Clearly Jack knows he has to have an outstanding season for us to make sure he travels with them and he pushes the guy in charge and wearing the shirt at the moment.”
Butland will line up for a Stoke team bidding to end a five-game winless run when Southampton visit the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.
There is less certainty about the defence that will be utilised ahead of him, though, as Hughes once again has injury issues in that department.
Loanee Kurt Zouma, ineligible to face parent club Chelsea last weekend, is back but Hughes confirmed Bruno Martins Indi (groin) is out along with Ryan Shawcross (back), while Geoff Cameron and Kevin Wimmer (both hamstring) are doubtful.
“Bruno is out for a number of weeks – he’s likely to be out for two to three weeks, I would think,” Hughes revealed.
“We are hopeful on Geoff Cameron. He’s probably the one we feel has got a good chance to take part.
“Ryan is not available and Kevin Wimmer would be a risk, he hasn’t trained all week.”