Football

Stoke City's Jack Butland has what it takes to win PFA Young Player of the Year

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Almost half way through the Premier League season and the front runners for the PFA awards are fast emerging.

Players such as Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Mesut Ozil have deservedly stolen the headlines and taken an early lead, but in the most competitive campaign for years, there is still plenty of time for other players to rise and stake their claim.

The PFA Young Player of the Year award is in its 42nd year and currently held by Tottenham's Harry Kane, following his breakthrough season at White Hart Lane last year.

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Overall, English players make up 30 of the 42 winners, with Wales the next most common with six - hardly surprising given the majority of young players in the Premier League have historically been English.

What does come as a surprise is a defender has only won the award three times and just once during the Premier League era. Spurs' Kyle Walker won in 2011/12, whereas midfielders have received it 20 times and forwards 15 times.

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This follows the popular trend that defenders are often overshadowed by their more attacking teammates due to their goalscoring exploits, highlighting football's tendancy to reward goals and assists over defensive contribution, which is harder to quantify.

What, therefore, would a goalkeeper have to do to earn the award? Since its inception in the 1973/74 season, just one 'keeper has won the PFA Young Player of the Year - Mervyn Day - who won the FA Cup as West Ham's first-choice shot-stopper at the age of 19.

The bar is set rather high for young goalkeepers as a result. To have any hope of winning, you must cement your first-team place in a squad - a rare feat for young, English 'keepers in the Premier League.

Secondly, for a goalkeeper to really stand out, they usually have to win silverware, like Day, or make a record number of saves.

Step forward, Stoke City's Jack Butland.

The 22-year-old from Bristol has played all 16 league games for Stoke so far this season and managed to keep seven clean sheets - joint first with Joe Hart, Petr Cech and Heurelho Gomes - and made the most saves with 66.

Butland's commanding presence and confidence from corners has seen him emerge one of the league's best 'keepers, exemplified by his 14 goals conceded this season, the joint third best. If it wasn't for his teammates managing just 13 scored, Mark Hughes' side would be in a far better position than 11th.

The England international has been nothing short of excellent and is fully deserving of the plaudits he receives. Not only is he justifying manager Hughes’ team selection, but he is outperforming many of the more experienced goalkeepers and has every chance of claiming the PFA Young Player of the Year award should such form continue.

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Topics:
Premier League
Football
Stoke City

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