Leeds United: Friendly rivalry between goalkeepers is fine by Butland

Jack Butland. PIC: James Hardisty
Jack Butland. PIC: James Hardisty
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Jack Butland said he and Paddy Kenny would maintain a friendly, supportive rivalry at Leeds United after staking his claim to the goalkeeper’s shirt with a flawless debut against Middlesbrough.

Butland earned Leeds a 0-0 draw at the Riverside on Saturday and then crossed his fingers for a run of appearances as he chases the dual ambition of play-off qualification and inclusion in England’s World Cup squad.

The 20-year-old, who has joined Leeds on loan from Stoke City until the end of the season, replaced the club’s existing first-choice keeper with Kenny requiring treatment on an ankle injury.

Butland emerged from a difficult debut unscathed, producing crucial saves from Jacob Butterfield and Albert Adomah as a disappointing clash with Boro ended goalless, and he is ready for an extended spell in United’s starting line-up with manager Brian McDermott still to set a timescale on Kenny’s return.

Asked if he was hopeful of a spate of opportunities, Butland said: “I’d like to think so.

“But Paddy’s a great lad and I know him from playing against him. We’ve had good chats after games and stuff like that. Whoever’s playing I’m sure the other will give full support. We’ll see when he gets back fit.

“I just really enjoyed being back on the pitch again. It was a great atmosphere and the travelling fans were awesome. Unfortunately we couldn’t get all three points but the lads were solid and strong and it was a good away point.”

Butland denied Butterfield with a diving save before half-time and prevented Adomah from snatching a win for Boro with a point-blank parry 12 minutes from time.

“The one with Adomah in the second half was the better save, definitely,” Butland said. “I made the one in the first half look a little bit special because the (television) cameras were here! But I’m really pleased. I couldn’t have asked for any better way to start.”

Leeds are seven points behind the play-offs, a point closer to sixth after Reading’s defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers, but a scrappy draw failed to seriously enhance their prospects of finishing inside the top six.

But Butland said: “The target’s got to be the play-offs. With the expectation and size of the club as it is, it would be wrong not to target that. I think we’ve got the lads to do it and this is a good start with a solid away point.

“The support that comes with wearing the badge and playing for Leeds is incredible and this is a great opportunity to be part of something special.”

The former Birmingham City ’keeper, who made his England debut in 2012, also has an eye on this year’s World Cup in Brazil, saying; “The summer is obviously a massive target and I’d love to be able to go.

“It’s obviously a dream of mine but it’s only possible if I’m playing regularly and playing well.

“If I am playing, I have a chance – if not then I’ll be out.”

Butland’s inclusion on Saturday was one of five changes made by McDermott, a number of them enforced by injuries and off-field matters.

Kenny and Sam Byram were both declared unfit ahead of the game and Tom Lees made way for Scott Wootton in the centre of the defence due to family issues.

“Tom has family issues which are far more important than football,” McDermott said.

“That’s why he wasn’t here. They’re far more important. Sam’s got a hamstring which we couldn’t take a risk on.”

The Leeds boss, however, revealed that another signing might follow the arrival of Butland, confirming that he had held discussed the possibility of a further addition to his squad.

“I never say we’re close until it’s done and dusted,” McDermott said. “But let’s just say we’ve had some talks about a certain player.”

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