Jack Butland confesses Celtic title reality hit 'like a ton of bricks' as he gets honest over Rangers rollercoaster

Jack Butland -Credit:SNS Group
Jack Butland -Credit:SNS Group

Jack Butland's first season in Scotland has provided as many dollops of delight as it has dunts of despair.

Whether it ends in a face-saving Hampden high or another sickener in the Scottish Cup Final is all that remains to be decided. But one way or another, the Rangers No1 is adamant he will look back on his debut campaign at Ibrox and take satisfaction from a job well done. The Englishman made his move north of the border last summer after a year warming a seat in the stand with Manchester United’s fringemen.

The two seasons before that at Crystal Palace served only to frustrate as he juggled injury issues with dips in form. But while this term’s events in Glasgow have also ebbed and flowed for Rangers, Butland deserves plaudits having emerged as the club’s one constant, the dependable figure of security at the back while those in front took turns losing the plot. His stand-out moments include a Viaplay Cup winners’ medal - the first prize of his career - a starring role in the Europa League run that took Gers to the last 16 and 57 appearances out of the 58 Gers have so far played this year.

There could yet be a second trophy to add to the highlights reel if the Ibrox side can pull off a first Old Firm win of the season on their final day of term next Saturday. But even if they do, the fact remains that the pride of a potential cup double is likely to be outweighed by the gloom of having allowed Celtic to wrap another league crown up in their stubborn grasp. Whatever happens, though, Butland can rest assured he’s done everything he can to aid the Ibrox cause.

“Listen I’ve loved it,” he insisted after pulling the curtain down on Gers’ Premiership campaign with a fittingly bonkers 3-3 draw at Tynecastle. “It’s been eventful. It’s had its ups and down. There’s been some incredible moments but ultimately we’ve fallen short of our main goal which was to win the league. So yeah, there’s been some down moments over the last couple of weeks.

“You know, when you’ve put so much effort into that ambition and then for it to be gone, yeah, it hits you like a ton of bricks I suppose. But I’ve loved this last 12 months. I’ve loved the challenge, I’ve loved the experience. I’ve loved my work and I’ve loved trying to help the boys. I’ve loved doing what I’m doing and I’ve really enjoyed playing in front of our fans everywhere we go and at Ibrox. It’s been enjoyable and I know it’s had it’s disappointments. We haven’t achieved what we wanted to achieve but I’ve really enjoyed myself.”

Clement is already turning attention to next season. The big Belgian has dipped into the Michael Beale book of soundbites after talking up plans for an “rebuild” and an “overhaul” that will be as stark off the pitch as it is on it.

Changes will be made to how the club identifies and recruits talent, while major alterations are planned for the medical department as Clement looks to crack down on the injury woes that have plagued his first seven months in the job.

But Butland insists the best way to set the club up for a successful season next term is to make sure they end this one on a winning note. Asked if victory at Hampden next week could act as a platform to bounce off, he said: “It has to. It has to be the demand of everybody to win trophies. It has to be the demand of the club, the manager, the players, all of us - the demand has to be to win.

“It’s important that you finish the season strong. Like I said about the league, we didn’t achieve what we wanted to. But if we can finish the season strong then we have to use that as a platform, we have to use it one way or another to kick on and to be better next season.”

Gers will have to be considerably sharper than they were in Edinburgh on Saturday. Goals from Ross McCausland, Todd Cantwell and Fabio Silva looked to have sealed victory over Hearts, only for a late collapse to spare Stevie Naismith from a sixth defeat out of six to Gers.

The Jambos, however, wouldn’t have had a hope heading into those final minutes had Cyriel Dessers not missed his latest barrowload of opportunities. Sloppy shooting and careless defending have been at the centre of all Rangers’ problems this season and Butland admits they’ll be in for more trouble if they make a repeat against Brendan Rodgers’ champions.

He said: “We’ve still scored three on Saturday - but we can’t concede three. So there are things that we need to learn. Yes we’ve got some inexperience in there at the back, we’ve had some changes and this, that and the other. Everyone will make excuses for us but we have to learn and we have to be better. It’s as simple as that. Recently, we’ve conceded far too many goals. That’s pretty simple and we need to stamp that out before next weekend. But if you score three, you should win the game.”

Butland is 11/4 with bookies Betfair to make the England Euro 2024 squad which will be announced later this week.