Stoke star Joe Bursik is ready to mark his rapid rise against Leicester.
The 20-year-old was playing for Hednesford in the Northern Premier League two seasons ago but is now one of the country’s most in-form goalkeepers.
He is preparing to face the Foxes in Saturday’s FA Cup third-round clash at the bet365 Stadium.
Bursik has kept seven clean sheets in 12 games since being recalled from loan at Doncaster after injuries to Angus Gunn and Adam Davies and also made his England Under-21 debut in November.
“It’s a mad roller-coaster in terms of how quickly it’s happened,” said Bursik, who was also on loan at Telford in 2019.
“The way I’ve come through has come quicker than expected but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m so grateful for the loans, where I learned so much.
“The development I’ve made in the last couple of years was immense. I got to the point where I was always ready for the opportunity and now it’s come I’m relishing it.
“I’m grateful for getting my chance and that reflects on the pitch.
“The way I went from the National League North to League One was a big jump. I’ve been thrown in the deep end now I’m in the Championship and given new challenges. I like to show I can rise to them.”
Stoke have cup pedigree this season, reaching the Carabao Cup quarter-finals before losing to Tottenham.
Bursik is yet to play in the FA Cup but has fond memories of the competition as a Chelsea fan.
His first game, the Blues’ 3-0 semi-final win over Aston Villa in 2010, has stuck with him and emulating his hero, Petr Cech, to reach Wembley is a dream.
“I remember being in the corner when (Didier) Drogba scored his goal, which he always did at Wembley,” he told the PA news agency.
“I’ve been to Stamford Bridge but the one at Wembley sticks out. I’ve still got a couple of pictures of me in my Chelsea strip with my scarf.
“If we can ever get there or get near that would be an unbelievable thing.
🗳️ Voting is now open for your December Player of the Month.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) January 4, 2021
“It’s a great competition as well and there are a couple of non-league teams knocking about as well which is good to see. We’ve got belief we can do well – as we did in the Carabao Cup earlier in the season.”
The game is due to go ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic, while Derby and Aston Villa are set to send their Under-23 and Under-18 players to face Chorley and Liverpool respectively after an outbreak at the clubs and Shrewsbury’s game at Southampton is off.
Bursik admits players are privileged to continue playing while many fans are unable to work.
He added: “We’ve got used to all the protocols since we first came back from lockdown in 2020.
“We are grateful we can carry on with our work, unlike the rest of the country. It’s a tough situation for everyone and they are going to be at home more in the next few months.
“Our hearts go out to them and we’re grateful we can carry on doing what we do.”