Neil Cutler has revealed how he was tempted to sign Jack Butland for Aston Villa back in the summer of 2019 but, instead, pushed ahead to bring in Tom Heaton from Burnley for around £8 million.
Dean Smith wanted to bring in an experienced Premier League goalkeeper after sealing promotion and tasked Cutler with leading that very search for a new No.1. The goalkeeping coach spoke to a number of candidates that summer with England international Butland close to joining from Stoke City.
The Potters slapped a reported £23m on their goalkeeper given Villa ’s interest and, according to Cutler, that fee was a little high for a stopper who had been struggling in the Championship.
Speaking to Claret & Blue: an Aston Villa Podcast, Cutler spoke of his temptation to rediscover Butland’s form that once made him one of the best goalkeeping prospects in the country. On Villa’s interest in the former England international, Cutler said: “Yeah, we spoke to Jack. He was a little bit different at the time because he was struggling a little bit with his performances at Stoke. I look at goalies and I go, ‘I can make him better! I can make him be top, top end.’ That’s just how I feel when I see a goalkeeper.
“Even when I see him struggling at another club, I go, ‘I can make him… He’s quick, athletic, he’s agile, he’s got a good shape, he’s played for England. I can get him back to where he should be.’
“But that’s difficult selling that to a football club that have got to shell out 20, 30 million for a goalie that’s not playing well. With Tom Heaton, it was a no-brainer because of his price at the time was next to nothing for a goalkeeper of that experience and knowledge and, for me, he had to be the No.1 (choice) because of what he bought.”
On Villa’s goalkeeping search that summer which heralded the signing of the vastly-experienced Heaton from Burnley, Cutler added: “We needed a goalkeeper that was consistent and experienced at that level and Tom epitomises that. He is that.
“He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met and people love him – he’s that kind of person. Not only that, he’s a fantastic goalkeeper who’s been so consistent over the years. You knew that you’d go into the Premier League and he’d be good and there wouldn’t be any issues and he’d slot in nicely.
“He, for me, was possibly the first signing where you thought, ‘We need him. We need him to be consistent and we need consistency in our first year.’
“Before signing, I spoke to him a lot. That’s the big thing when you sign a goalkeeper, you’ve got to have that trust and relationship. I just knew he’d be consistent in the Premier League because he’d done it for so many years, not only that but as a person and that’s what Dean buys into, people, and Tom’s a top, top person and we know he’d come in and be good for us.”
You can watch Neil Cutler in conversation with Claret & Blue: an Aston Villa Podcast via our YouTube channel over this upcoming weekend. The podcast will also be available on Spotify and all of the usual podcast providers. To sign up for an alert when Cutler’s podcast becomes available, click here.