Butland: Hardest year of my career

England goalkeeper Jack Butland is close to returning from injury after experiencing the hardest year of his career.

Stoke’s Butland has been out of action since March last year after suffering setbacks in his attempts to return from a troublesome ankle injury.

The 24-year-old initially broke his ankle during an England friendly against Germany, but then required another operation on the eve of the Premier League campaign and then broke down again as he stepped up his comeback.

But after completing 90 minutes for Stoke Under-23s earlier this week, Butland is ready to put his injury misery behind him.

“I like a little bit of a smile and a swagger, but I was probably a little bit more than that last night and had a grin on my face for 90 minutes,” he said.

“I think recovering from the first operation wasn't that bad, it was the feeling like I was back and then the day before the first game of the season it all kind of going pear shaped.

"And that three months leading into the last operation was tough, it was back and forth to specialists, radiologists, trying to get it right and put a finger on what it was and how to deal with it. That was the hardest part.”