Stoke keeper Butland back training after lengthy layoff
REUTERS - Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland has returned to training after a lengthy spell on the sidelines with an ankle injury, manager Mark Hughes said on Friday.
Butland has been out of action since he fractured an ankle during England's 3-2 friendly victory against Germany in March.
The 23-year-old trained with the club in pre-season but suffered a setback the day before Stoke's opening match against Middlesbrough in August and underwent surgery last month.
"He (Butland) was out on the pitch yesterday for the first time," Hughes told reporters on Friday.
"He had a procedure which has loosened ligaments in the ankle, which were a bit sticky for want of a better word."
"The injury before day one was very hard to take... but he shrugged his shoulders and got on with it and hopefully now he can see the return date coming up shortly."
Stoke have started poorly and are 18th in the 20-team league after losing four of their eight games so far.
The team got their first win of the season at home to Sunderland last weekend and Hughes is hoping to make it back-to-back victories when Stoke travel to Hull City on Saturday.
Hull have slipped to 16th place after being hammered 6-1 by Bournemouth in their last match and Hughes urged Stoke to pile more misery on their hosts to propel their way up the table.
"It is an opportunity for us, for sure. We want to ask questions of them and see if they are fragile," Hughes added.
"It never changes, back-to-back wins are a huge thing and at this stage of the season it shoots you up the table, maybe to 10th or 11th if other results go your way."
"We know the importance of that. That's the aim for us but clearly Hull will have something to say about that.
"We've just had a period of games against teams in the top half. Even though on paper some might think this is an easy period, that's not always the case."
Hughes also praised Joe Allen, the Welsh midfielder he signed from Liverpool in the close season, who has scored four goals in his last three league games.
"I think he's surprised himself... Not only is he anticipating things like a striker, he's finishing like one as well," Hughes said.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien)