Jack Butland can't be out of Premier League for long, says England legend Gordon Banks

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Jordan Pickford (r) is ahead of Jack Butland in England's pecking order.

Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland cannot afford to be out of the Premier League for too long if he wants to further his international career, according to England World Cup winner Gordon Banks.

Everton’s Jordan Pickford has a firm grip on England’s number one jersey following an impressive World Cup.

Butland, though, will be hoping to be given an opportunity by Gareth Southgate as the Three Lions open their Nations League campaign against Spain at Wembley on Saturday, followed by a friendly with Switzerland in Leicester next Tuesday.

Despite being linked with a summer move away from Stoke following relegation, with Chelsea a reported possible destination, the 25-year-old Butland remained to help the club try and secure a swift Premier League return.

Banks made 194 appearances for Stoke, having joined from Leicester towards the end of the season after he had helped England lift the Jules Rimet Trophy at Wembley.

However, the 80-year-old, who earned 73 caps, believes an extended lack of top-flight football would not be beneficial to Butland’s international ambitions.

Pickford enhanced his reputation after a fine World Cup for England.

Pickford enhanced his reputation after a fine World Cup for England.

“I’d love Jack to stay at Stoke for the long term, we all would, because he’s a really super goalkeeper, but he might need to leave for the sake of his England career, which is a shame for Stoke fans though it’s understandable,” said Banks, who is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk campaign in Stoke.

“I definitely think he’s good enough for England, but the facts are, at the moment, you really need to play top-division football to be in with a shout of the England team. It’s the way the world works.

“For now, though, Jack has just got to put that to one side, to the back of his mind, and focus on doing the best he can, giving it everything, for club and country, and everything will fall into place.”

Banks added: “Having Jack at Stoke is good for the club, but he won’t want to let international football slip through his fingers, so to speak.

“He can’t afford to be out of the Premier League for too long and no-one could hold it against him if he moved on.

“I’m pleased he’s still at Stoke and I’d love him to stay for good, and with a bit of luck he can help us get back into the Premier League this season.”

– Alzheimer’s Society is urgently calling on people to unite against dementia and take part in Memory Walk on September 9. Register now at memorywalk.org.uk

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Liverpool's Andrew Robertson says "special" Eden Hazard in world's top five players

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New Scotland captain Andrew Robertson believes Eden Hazard is among the best five players in the world as he prepares to lock horns with the Belgium playmaker on Friday night.

The World Cup semi-finalists will travel to Hampden Park for a friendly as preparation for their Nations League opener in Iceland on Tuesday, with the Scots hosting Albania in their first game in the tournament on Monday night.

Scots boss Alex McLeish has appointed the Liverpool left-back as his new skipper and Robertson has plenty of experience playing against the Chelsea forward, whom he rates highly.

The former Queen’s Park, Dundee United and Hull player said: “He is up there. He is probably in the top five at the minute.

“I played against him many a time and even if he is having a quiet game he can pop up at any point and turn a game and that is what we are up against.

“He is special. The way he turns and gets at players, he can commit two or three defenders at a time and that is a very special trait, there is not many that have it but he has it.

Special talent: Eden Hazard.

Special talent: Eden Hazard.

“He has been unbelievable for Chelsea and Belgium and he is somebody we will need to watch.

“The problem with Belgium is you can’t focus on Hazard as someone else pops up.

“That is one of the problems of playing a world-class team, you have to be aware of all their threats and we will be ready for them and do our best to stop them.”

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Wales boss Ryan Giggs heaps praise on Real Madrid star Gareth Bale after emphatic win

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Wales boss Ryan Giggs singled out Gareth Bale for praise after his players crushed Nations League opponents the Republic of Ireland.

Tom Lawrence, Bale – with his 30th goal for Wales – Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts were on target before Republic substitute Shaun Williams provided some cheer for the visitors in a 4-1 defeat at Cardiff City Stadium.

Giggs was enthused about a trademark box office display from Bale ahead of what is now likely to be an appointment with a full-strength Denmark in Aarhus on Sunday after a dispute about players’ commercial rights was resolved.

“Every time he plays, he makes a difference, whether it’s for Wales or Real Madrid,” Giggs said. “It gives everyone a lift, but he’s a great example of the level you have to get to.

“It’s a difficult match with a very good team on Sunday. We don’t know what their preparation has been like, but we expect a tough game, their best 11, and they are probably favourites in the group.

“We might have to play even better to get that result. I said to the players the bad news is you have to keep to that standard. They have to keep getting better, keep improving.”

Ireland boss Martin O’Neill had no complaints about the result after seeing a team missing a handful of regulars taken apart.

“We were well beaten in the game,” he said. “We were second best for pretty well all of the evening.

“We made more than a few mistakes. We allowed room for world-class players, and particularly Gareth Bale, to work his magic.

“He is a world-class player, and I do think it helps when you have got a world-class player at your disposal. He is capable of unlocking defences, he is capable of scoring the type of goal that he did, and he is playing for Real Madrid as well.

“We were missing some really key players tonight. Fine. This was a really tough evening for us, regardless of whether we had some players missing, and we should do better.

“It has not diminished my enthusiasm for the job one jot. We’ve a long, long way to go, and we might have one or two players back for the games in Dublin.”

The victory might not have erased the pain of Wales’ World Cup elimination last October when the Republic won 1-0 at the same venue.

But the manner of the performance, with talented youngsters Ethan Ampadu and David Brooks excelling on their first competitive starts and Bale at his brilliant best, gave a tantalising glimpse of the bright future that could lie ahead under Giggs.

“I talked about expressing themselves and trusting each other, and that’s what I got,” Giggs said.

“We could have scored more, but to get four in any game is special.

“Credit to ourselves, not many teams could have lived with us tonight. I think we’d have given anyone a game.

“The young lads came in and did well, but I feel we have got 30 players who can be in the first XI. I never had that when I played for Wales.”

Asked about 17-year-old Ampadu’s display, Giggs added: “Ethan is a talent, but not only as a player, but as a person. He is so measured and mature and takes it all in his stride. I am really pleased for him.”

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