Jack Butland 'shocked' to learn 'hero' Joe Hart omitted ffrom England World Cup squad
Jack Butland says he was shocked to hear that Joe Hart had not been picked in England's World Cup squad, calling Gareth Southgate's decision "gutsy."
Hart was left out of the squad after a patchy season on loan at West Ham, when he was in and out of the side and showed a number of shaky moments, as the Hammers avoided relegation.
Despite Hart being the only English goalkeeper with any significant tournament experience, Southgate chose the trio of Butland, Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope, who have nine caps between them.
Hart's form meant his position was untenable, but that doesn't mean Butland wasn't surprised at his omission.
"I think we all thought 'wow'," Butland said this week. "It was a gutsy decision from the manager.
"I've spoken to Joe. I know he's devastated to miss out and I'm gutted for him. I've known Joe a very long time. He's been my hero since I was 14 years old and I still look up to him now. It was important for me to tell him that because you don't often get opportunities to tell people what you really think about them.
"When I was coming through at Birmingham, I wanted to be where he was, I wanted to be the No. 1 for Birmingham and the No. 1 for England and he was all those things.
"He's always been the first one to congratulate whoever's played, friendlies or qualifiers. That shows more about Joe as a person and character than any of the saves or great performances he's had throughout his career.
"To see him miss out, I'm gutted, and I know he is as well."
The chances are that Pickford will be Southgate's starting keeper when England face Tunisia in their first World Cup game on June 18, but there isn't a clear No. 1 in the squad, as there has been for previous tournaments.
"It's a great position to be in," Butland said. "Ask any keeper what it's like when there's a recognised No. 1, the competition might not be as high. You're after that competition because it drives you on further.
"There's no pecking order, no 'He's first, I'm second.' We are all pushing each other. We all serve each other. We applaud each others' saves, we pick each other up when we make mistakes.
"They are all my opponents and I'm theirs, but as a result we all push each other forward. The moment you get that feeling of 'it doesn't matter what he does,' things go wrong."
As always with England at a major tournament, the issue of penalty shootouts is ever-present, but Butland reassured everyone that the squad are preparing as best they can.
"We do our research," he said. "You can study people, or you can not, you can study thousands of penalties and the averages of this and the averages of that.
"You've got to do your homework, and you've got to look at what makes people successful, what makes penalty takers unsuccessful. Ultimately, they're the ones kicking it, so how can you transfer the pressure on to them? How can you disrupt their pattern to make it difficult?"
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.