Jack Butland and England players "believe in" playing out from the back

Simon Peach 12/09/2018
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Jack Butland’s belief that England should keep playing out from the back remains unwavering, despite enduring some hairy moments in the unconvincing win against Switzerland.

The World Cup semi-finalists avoided a record fourth successive defeat on Tuesday evening as Marcus Rashford capped an improved second-half display by securing a narrow 1-0 win in Leicester.

While Gareth Southgate’s men did well after the break, the first half made for uncomfortable viewing.

Overrun in midfield and shaky in defence, the determination to play out from the back almost cost them in the opening stages.

Xherdan Shaqiri hit a post after Butland played James Tarkowski into trouble shortly after the Stoke goalkeeper nearly rolled a pass into his own net.

“It was scruffy at times, but we kept doing it,” England shot-stopper Butland said.

“We kept plugging away and ultimately we played from end-to-end a fair few times and got ourselves some chances and some good possession as a result of it.

“It’s something that we believe in. We believe we’ve got the players to do it, so we’re not just going to turn away from it if we don’t feel like it’s right.

“Yes, we still need to make the right decisions โ€“ there are times when you can overplay and times when the ball needs to go longer and a bit safer โ€“ but it’s about making those decisions and I thought we did that as a whole pretty well.”

Butland spoke with confidence at the King Power Stadium, where England eventually “got to grips” with things on a night when the goalkeeper did well not to be thrown off kilter.

“It’s not particularly difficult if you’re comfortable doing it,” he said of playing out from the back.

“We’ve done it all week in training, so for me, I enjoy it, I like the challenge, I like the experience of being able to do it, so it’s nice to have that opportunity to do it with England.”

Jordan Pickford’s superior ability on the ball will surely see him return to the number one jersey in next month’s UEFA Nations League double-header with Croatia and Spain.

Butland was understandably proud to pick up his ninth cap on Tuesday, but it is now back to the grind of Championship football as relegated Stoke head to Sheffield Wednesday this weekend.

Southgate’s keenness for his players to be competing at the top level is clear, with the 25-year-old the only member of the squad currently playing outside the Premier League.

“You can argue that the standard is different, but it’s still a very demanding league and I still have to be at the top of my game,” Butland said.

“I still have to be fit, strong, train well and play well. If I can do that, I’d like to think I can stay in the squad.

“The manager’s reassured me of that. We’ve had a lot of conversations.

“If I’m in the Championship beyond this season, then obviously things start to get a bit trickier, but certainly for this year he’s reassured me that if I can keep my standards high, I can be a part of the team.”

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Manchester United make Atletico Madrid sporting director top target for new role

David Cooper 12/09/2018
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Atletico Madrid sporting director Andrea Berta (right)

Manchester United’s search for a director of football has moved to La Liga with Atletico Madrid’s sporting director Andrea Berta a leading candidate, according to the Evening Standard.

Old Trafford is set for a major restructure off the pitch and are hoping to make an appointment for the newly created position by the end of the year.

The report says United have registered their interest but are also exploring Juventusโ€™ Fabio Paratici with RB Leipzig’s Paul Mitchell also recommended.

Berta has been with Atletico since joining from Genoa in 2013 but took on the role of sporting director last year.

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Barcelona make surprise acquisition in bid to find French stars like Ousmane Dembele

David Cooper 12/09/2018
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Ousmane Dembele

Barcelona have made a surprise acquisition in the form of beIN presenter Jerome Bigot.

The La Liga champions are delving deeper into the vast talent pools of French football and the Catalan giants, on the recommendation of new sporting directorย Eric Abidal, have signed the television presenter on a three-year deal as a scout, according to ESPN.

The two worked together while on duty for beIN France and Barcelona legend Abidal is said to have been very impressed by Bigot’s level of knowledge.

French trio Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet are already key members of Ernesto Valverde’s squad and it is hoped Bigot will be the man to help unlock more talents from the home of the world champions.

According to sources who spoke to ESPN, Bigot has been described as “respectful, loyal and a good professional.”

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