World Cup 2018: England goalkeeper Jack Butland 'up for the battle'

Jack Butland has won six caps for England
Jack Butland has won six caps for England

Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland is "up for the battle" to be England's number one at this summer's World Cup.

Butland, 25, started England's most recent qualifier - against Lithuania - but Joe Hart has been the regular first choice for the past six years.

Hart, 30, has made just one Premier League appearance for West Ham since November, while Butland has impressed as Stoke's starting goalkeeper.

"The only thing going through my mind is making sure it's me," he said.

Speaking to BBC One's Football Focus, he added: "It's about me being as good as I can to ensure Stoke stay up and I'm England number one."

Butland and Hart were two of the four goalkeepers in the squad Gareth Southgate named on Thursday for friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy this month.

Everton's Jordan Pickford and Burnley's Nick Pope were also included, and Southgate said: "Clearly the number one jersey is up for grabs."

Butland, speaking before the announcement, said: "I want to give Gareth Southgate an easy decision or a hard decision, whichever way you want to put it.

"Whoever gets it will deserve it and I'll back them, and if it's me then I'd expect the same from everyone else."

"I know the competition I'm up against and I enjoy the pressures that come with that. I'm up for the battle."

Butland is yet to feature for England at a tournament having fractured his ankle while on international duty in the build-up to to Euro 2016.

The number of minutes each goalkeeper has played under Gareth Southgate
The number of minutes each England goalkeeper has played under Gareth Southgate

'Performances have improved'

England's first World Cup group match is against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday, June 18.

Before that, Butland's focus will be on helping Stoke retain their Premier League status.

The Potters are 19th in the table, one point adrift of safety with eight matches remaining.

And Butland, who has captained the side, says new manager Paul Lambert has changed their approach.

"I think there has been a massive focus in the way we play without the ball," he said.

"Previously we may have sat back and pressed from deeper, but recently we've been really keen to get after teams much higher up the pitch. Performances have improved."

'We had to tackle him in twos and threes'

Before Butland signed for Birmingham, the Bristolian was a schoolboy rugby player, and is particularly proud of a win against England international Billy Vunipola.

"I loved my rugby but I had to give priority to football at 14," he said.

"I played against Billy and my rugby claim to fame is beating him in the final of the Somerset Schools' Cup in Year 8.

"We had to tackle him in twos and threes because he was a specimen even then but we lifted the trophy."

You can see the full interview with Jack Butland - speaking to former team-mate Shay Given - on BBC One's Football Focus at 12:00 GMT on Saturday, 17 March.

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