With Aston Villa linked with Stoke City ‘keeper Jack Butland this week, the debate has started in regard to whether Jed Steer deserves his chance.
Words by Matt Blog | @Blogg_Matt
Despite leading Villa to promotion after conceding just eight goals in the last 12 matches of the regular season, there is talk that Jed Steer is going to be replaced by a Premier League-proven goalkeeper. One of those rumoured is Stoke City’s Jack Butland, who impressed in a disappointing Stoke side in the championship last season.
Jack Butland is of course a big name in the Championship and would improve numerous Premier League teams with his experience and ability. Having made nine first team appearances for England, Butland would be a quality addition to most sides, and Southgate is breaking his rule of ‘players must be in the Premier League to play for England’ that he imposed on Jack Grealish, as Butland is still making squads despite playing for a team that finished 16th in the Championship.
This is clearly because he is Premier League quality, however, and with a better defence, he may well have made more than the impressive 18 clean sheets that he managed throughout the league season. The 26-year-old joined Stoke in 2013 and has been their first choice ‘keeper since about 2014, playing over 130 games for them, 77 of which have come in the Premier League. At just 26, Butland’s best years are arguably still ahead of him, so he would be a good signing for Villa if the price tag isn’t extortionate.
However, signing Jack Butland would be undoubtedly with the purpose of having him as number one, meaning Jed Steer would lose his place after being such a key figure in the promotion charge. Also 26, Jed Steer has played 100 fewer professional matches in his career and has made just one Premier League appearance, playing for Villa in the 2014-15 season. Steer is unquestionably a smaller wave in the goalkeeping ocean than Butland, with one being a recognised England goalkeeper and one playing on loan in League One at the start of this season, but in terms of suitability for Villa, Steer is an excellent ‘keeper fully deserving of his place as number one at the start of the approaching campaign.
Dean Smith has Villa playing a calm, dynamic, passing style of football, and Jed Steer has demonstrated since coming into the team that he is more than capable of playing this way. His performances haven’t been without the odd hiccup, but in terms of errors leading to goals, his record looks very healthy. Butland is probably a better shot-stopper, is three inches taller and is proven in the Premier League, but could he play out the way Villa and Dean Smith want to? Potentially, as he achieved 57% pass accuracy last season, but we don’t know, and Smith is absolutely not going to change his style of play, so if Jack Butland isn’t capable enough of playing out, we won’t sign him.
In terms of stats, both players had decent seasons personally last time out, despite the gulf in success between the teams. Butland kept 18 clean sheets in the Championship from 45 games, conceding 51 goals. However, from 4 penalties that Butland faced, he didn’t manage to save any. Jed Steer on the other hand kept 5 clean sheets in 19 games (including Play Offs), conceding 15 goals. Notable though is his penalty success, saving 3 out of 7 that he faced (including the Play Off shootout). Steer has shown immense character to finally make the cut at Villa, but the Premier League is no place for sentiment so Smith has to go with whoever he feels would be the best option for the team.
Both ‘keepers are entering what they would consider their prime as they approach 27, and while Butland is a proven player in the top league and recognised internationally as a quality goalkeeper, Steer has proven himself to be good enough to wear the shirt for Aston Villa after his performances in the run-in last season. Whatever Smith pursues will get my backing and I would imagine the backing of the majority of fans, but either ‘keeper would be a worthy possessor of the number 1 shirt next season.