Paul Mortimer meets... 'Next 20' Ambassador Jack Butland - Part Two
As part of a new feature series, Paul Mortimer, Kick It Out’s Professional Players Engagement Manager, has travelled across the country to speak to a variety of current and former professionals about the issues most important to them in the modern game.
Paul’s first visit was to the Potteries, where he met Jack Butland, Stoke City goalkeeper, England international and one of Kick It Out’s valued ‘Next 20’ Ambassadors who help spread the organisation’s messages of equality and inclusion.
In the second of a two-part interview, Paul spoke to Jack about his hopes for the future with Stoke and his role in helping Great Britain’s Deaf Women’s Football team attend the Deaf World Cup last June.
Whilst Jack has yet to make an appearance in Stoke’s difficult start to the season, he remains confident about the club’s chances of having a successful campaign.
“If I am doing my job, then I will help the team maintain the three ninth place finishes we have had,” he said. “Hopefully it will be a positive season for the club in what I think is going to be a much tougher Premier League this year.”
The goalkeeper has gone from strength-to-strength since Asmir Begovic left the Potters for Chelsea last summer, and his leadership qualities are also beginning to shine through at the club.
Asked whether he could see himself captaining Stoke one day, Jack suggested he was more focused on his own role at the moment.
“The armband does not make a difference to me – I always think ‘if I was captain, what would I do differently?’ I feel like I do what I need to do already but because you are on your own as a goalkeeper, you don’t want to get too involved in other people’s positions.
“There is nothing I can say to a striker or a midfielder in the game because it is irrelevant. I have my own job and I need my area to work on.”
Jack continued: “There are two types of captains, you either lead vocally or by example. I try and lead by example – yes I am one of the loudest – but I feel I do what I can and what is necessary for my job.
“What I have started to do differently is build on what I do off the pitch, like working with the analysts in the video room about where we can improve as a team. I don’t think that would necessarily change if I was a captain – that is me just wanting to better myself and the team.”
Jack is eager to continue his progress following an impressive breakthrough season: “To be the number one is my target for every season, but also to keep building and improving as a goalkeeper and a person as well. I always like getting involved in things off the field to try and make the most of the position that I am in – whether it be with Kick It Out, other charities or the Stoke Community Trust.”
These aren’t just words from the ‘Next 20’ Ambassador. At the end of last year, Jack demonstrated his commitment to making a difference when he donated £5,000 to Great Britain’s Deaf Women’s Football team so they could attend the Deaf World Cup in Italy.
Jack reflected on his gesture of goodwill: “It was a funny one – I was in the changing room downstairs one morning before training, scrolling through Twitter and something came up that I felt strongly about. The GB Women’s Deaf team was raising money to get them to the World Cup in the summer but they only had a couple of days left and they were miles short.
“What got me was it reminded me of when I went to tournaments with England as a kid. We won the Under-17 European Championships, playing Spain in the final and that will stay with me as the best memory ever.”
He added: “It’s something I will never forget and I just thought for a team who is so desperate to go, to be denied the chance to experience something like that – if that was me then I would have been devastated.”
The publicity Jack’s gesture received encouraged other England internationals such as James Milner, Fran Kirby and Lucy Bronze to make donations of their own, ensuring the team surpassed its fundraising target.
He was delighted to help: “It might be something that they remember for the rest of their lives. I wanted to get them on their way and even if they hadn’t been successful, it raised massive awareness for them. In the end they secured bronze and the captain, Claire Stancliffe, even went on to win Sky’s Sportswoman of the Month award for August.”
Jack believes his fellow footballers should be doing more to raise awareness of inclusion issues such as these.
“It doesn’t take a lot to turn up to an event for half an hour or to retweet something because the exposure you have is incredible. I have over 100,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter and whatever you do, you can search and see the effect it has had.
“The people you might reach by simply posting a tweet or turning up to an event and wearing a t-shirt – it can have a massive impact.”