Jack Butland urged Leeds United to believe in their bid to make the Championship play-offs after joining the club on loan until the end of the season.
The England goalkeeper, who was poised to make his debut at Middlesbrough today, said he was hopeful of seeing Leeds overturn an eight-point gap to the top six and claimed the play-offs were “certainly the target.”
United signed Butland on loan from Stoke City yesterday, bringing him to Elland Road with first-choice Paddy Kenny troubled by a long-standing ankle injury.
Butland accepted a 93-day loan with 16 matches remaining and Leeds under pressure to make their move for the top six having slipped down the league gradually since Christmas.
The 20-year-old said: “Everything that’s gone before needs to be forgotten. There’s 16 games now to focus on and in 16 games there’s a lot of points up for grabs. Eight points can swing in a matter of weeks. Reaching the play-offs is certainly the target. The fans want that and I’m sure that they’ll be behind the team the whole way.”
Kenny had completed every minute of United’s season prior to today’s visit to The Riverside but manager Brian McDermott moved for Butland with Kenny suffering from an injury he first sustained in December.
The 35-year-old was not expected to feature in Leeds’ squad against Middlesbrough but McDermott has given no indication of whether Kenny is facing an extended spell on the sidelines. Butland’s arrival, however, gives Leeds a highly-rated replacement and a keeper who became a fully-fledged England international in 2012.
Stoke paid more than £3million to take him from Birmingham City last year but his opportunities at the Britannia Stadium have been few and he was loaned to Barnsley earlier in the season.
Butland said: “It ticks all the boxes in terms of the pressures on the game and the crowds. It’s as close as you can get to Premier League football outside of the Premier League.
“The loan system has been very helpful for me to get out and get experience. I’m very lucky to have the chance to come to Leeds and hopefully there’ll be some really good times while I’m here.”
Butland’s arrival increases the competition for Kenny, who has played without an experienced replacement behind him since September, and McDermott said defender Marius Zaliukas was also under pressure to fight for a place having failed to feature in the wake of the debacle at Hillsborough.
McDermott, who has limited Zaliukas, right, to appearances with United’s development squad, said: “He (Zaliukas) is part of the squad.
“That game is gone, done and dusted, and you now pick your squad. We all train as hard as we can and if you’re playing in the under-21s you do as well as you possibly can.
“This is Leeds United and we need strong competition for places. It should be a tough team to get into.”