09:30 21st April 2017
Manager contemplates 'keeper's possible inclusion...
MARK HUGHES has hinted that Jack Butland could be handed his first Premier League start in over 12 months in South Wales this weekend.
The England international hasn’t featured for the Potters since a 2-1 triumph over Watford at Vicarage Road last March, having suffered a broken ankle whilst in action for his country against Germany.
The 24-year-old has however finally overcome the long-term problem and Hughes dropped his biggest hint yet at this morning’s pre-match press conference that the stopper could be in-line for a first-team return.
“Jack has had another really good week and I think it is fair to say that he is in my mind,” the Welshman said.
“This weekend is a possibility of course, but I will see how he goes in training today.
“Whatever my decision is though, he will definitely be getting game-time over the coming weeks because it is important to get him out there so we know he is going to be fully ready to go again next season.”
Hughes has one or two slight injury concerns leading into the fixture with both Glenn Whelan and Joe Allen having only returned to training in the past 24 hours.
Whelan has been laid low this week with a virus whilst Allen, who spent five years with Swansea City prior to his move to Liverpool in 2012, has been nursing a hamstring problem.
“We are hopeful on the fitness of Joe and Glenn, but we will have to see how today goes before making a final decision,” he added.
“As of yesterday they both came through training, so if they are able to come through today ok they will be in contention.
“Glenn was really poorly with a virus for four or five days and lost a bit of weight whilst Joe has been nursing a hamstring problem - if there is any doubt at all then we will air on the side of caution with him.”
Despite not training this week, Jonathan Walters is expected to travel with the rest of the squad down to Swansea.