Season Preview - Goalkeepers
With the league campaign kicking off this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the squad we will be using to do battle. A 5-1 victory last night against Barnet has given us a few pointers for the season ahead and I'll be using that game, some pre-season action and manager Lee Clark's comments in this preview.
As it would be wrong of me to squeeze the whole squad into one piece, I will break it down to ensure everyone gets a fair write-up. Today, I'll focus on the goalkeeping position and I will work down the pitch each day, culminating in the strikers preview on Saturday morning before the Charlton game.
In April, I wrote that Blues could face a goalkeeping dilemma this summer. My main concerns were Colin Doyle's expiring contract and a replacement for Boaz Myhill. Thankfully, Doyle turned down advances from Ipswich to sign a new deal with the club and Myhill was replaced by the experienced David Lucas.
Whilst some may view Lucas as an inferior option to Myhill, that fear is offset by the whirlwind development of Jack Butland. This summer saw the youngster catapulted into the national spotlight as Butland was called up as third-choice 'keeper for the England EURO2012 squad. Despite not playing at the tournament, high-profile journalists were falling over themselves to praise the Butland they had seen in training sessions.
Upon his return to the country, Butland was immediately called up to Stuart Pearce's Team GB Olympic squad. He appeared as a substitute in the friendly vs Brazil where he pulled off a string of fantastic saves, notably from the Samba superstar Neymar. A clean sheet against the likes of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez in a victory over Uruguay would only have boosted his confidence.
However, Butland came back to reality at the weekend as he dropped a powerful, but routine, cross in a friendly against Royal Antwerp and gifted the Belgians a goal. No goalkeeper is perfect and making a mistake in a Blues shirt will benefit him in the long run. It was nice to see the fans still on his side after the error.
Last night saw Lucas make his competitive bow for Blues with Butland again on England duty and Doyle rumoured to have been a little unwell.
The former Preston man had an uncomfortable night and flapped at a few crosses, whilst he should have done better with Jon Nurse's back-post header that squeezed in at his near post to give Barnet the lead.
I would expect Butland, who will become the youngest England goalkeeper in 124 years, to finally make his Blues debut this weekend in the clash against Charlton. It will be surreal to think that he has made his England debut before his Blues bow, but that is testament to his development this summer.
Colin Doyle is likely to resume his role as perennial back-up 'keeper, but I find it hard to believe he would have signed a new deal were he not given hope that he can oust Butland should his performances merit so. I expect Lucas to be happy to be at a club of Blues' stature, so it is unlikely he would rock the boat.
Overall, we're pretty well-stocked in the goalkeeping department. After all, does any other Championship club have a current England international and former Irish international fighting for a place between the sticks?