(Reuters) - Stoke City's fit-again goalkeeper Jack Butland was picked ahead of Lee Grant for the club's last three Premier League games as the England international needed to prepare for future fixtures, manager Mark Hughes has said.
Butland returned to action in April after a year on the sidelines with an ankle injury and was chosen over Grant, who has kept nine clean sheets in 30 appearances for the club this season.
Butland sustained a broken ankle in March last year but participated in Stoke's pre-season fixtures before a recurrence sidelined him for a majority of the current season.
"It was difficult but that was because of how well Lee had done," Hughes told British media.
"I was comfortable with the reason why I needed to bring Jack in because I needed to know if he would be sound for pre-season. We couldn't get into the situation we faced last year..."
Hughes said that the decision had nothing to do with Grant's performance and that he had explained the reason to the stopper.
"It was no reflection on how Lee had played," Hughes continued.
"He has been outstanding and was disappointed, clearly. But I tried to explain the thinking behind the decision because he deserved the respect of that given how well he's done.
"He's very well thought of at the club and we are very fortunate to have two outstanding keepers. For me, as a manager, I'm delighted with that."
Hughes said that Grant could be the club's Player of the Year but having strong goalkeepers for next season was more important.
"If he (Grant) had been playing poorly it would have been easier, but he's arguably our player-of-the-year because he's done so well. Explaining it, he might not have agreed, but he understood where I was coming from."
Stoke, who are 13th in the table, host fifth-placed Arsenal on Saturday before ending the season at Southampton.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty