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Man City defender Stones: England are doing it for the fans

26 March 2018

London, Mar 26 England's Jack Butland is backing manager Gareth Southgate's policy of keeping his goalkeepers guessing as to who will be the number one for the World Cup in Russian Federation.

Southgate announced his latest choice during his news conference yesterday ahead of the Wembley clash with the Azzuri.

The Stoke player is set to start against Italy at Wembley on Tuesday and needs to keep pace with Everton's rising star Jordan Pickford, who made it two clean sheets from two appearances during Friday's 1-0 win in the Netherlands.

Tim Sherwood said he was "enthused" by England after their win against the Netherlands.

"At the beginning of the week that's what we decided we were going to do, give them both a game for the experience and we've stuck with the plan", Southgate said.

"The balance of the squad we have got to get right".

"He transferred what we know he can do into an important game, a game away from home, so that was good for him.

They'll press us with more intensity than we were pressed the other night, which is a good challenge for us".

Italy were also the opponents when Butland made his England debut back in 2012, a 2-1 win in Berne. He was ruled out of Euro 2016 after fracturing his ankle in March of that year. In terms of form this season, he should not be starting for the Three Lions in Russian Federation.

Pickford has let in 50 for Everton this season, keeping seven clean sheets in 31 Premier League games, yet both he and Butland appear to be edging ahead of Hart, out of favour at West Ham United, in the race to get the goalie jersey in Russian Federation. According to Premier League statistics, Butland leads the way this season with 112 to third-placed Pickford's 103. Joe's professionalism has been brilliant with us, he's always performed well for us.

"I don't think it's too late for anybody, it's obviously more hard because there's a couple of guys who have been in squads and haven't had the chance to play for us", he said. "This week, even though he knew he wasn't going to be involved in the games, he's been a positive influence on the other players".

"I'm not so sure they're in as much of a state as people say", the former Middlesbrough manager added.

"I've just got to knuckle down and do what I do and see what comes".

The 24-year-old attracted attention from around Europe after he scored 26 goals for Torino in Serie A last season and also became a regular for Italy.

Leading the nation is the dream of nearly every single player, and Demarai Gray was able to live it on a special occasion as the footballing world remembered the great Cyrille Regis.

Pep Guardiola would surely rather that if his expertise as a manager was benefiting any national side ahead of the World Cup, it would be Spain. So I've dealt with bigger things than the odd [bad] performance, I've dealt with a hell of a long time out of the game.

"So for me personally I want to be up there and keep working hard and knuckling down".

And Stones spoke about his situation at the Etihad and trying to get back in his club's first XI: "I've had a lot of time out to be fair".

Man City defender Stones: England are doing it for the fans