It is 13 months since Butland's last competitive appearance when he suffered a fractured ankle while playing for England against Germany.
However, the 24-year-old played the full 90 minutes on Monday night as the Under-23 side lost 2-0 to Brighton.
Asked if it had been the toughest year of his career, he told Sky Sports News: "Yes, by far. When I recovered from the first operation it wasn't too bad, it was the feeling like I was back and then the day before the first game of the season it kind of all was going pear-shaped.
"That three months leading into the last operation was tough. It was back and forth to specialists and radiologists and things like that, trying to get it right and put a finger on what it was.
"So, it's been since pre-season. I recovered from the first operation which then later set me back but I was playing in pre-season so I was pretty good then. It's been eight months since my last game so I am pretty pleased.
"I'm relieved and just dead pleased and happy to be back out on the pitch. It's obviously where I want to be and where I'm happiest.
"It's not been full steam ahead but it's gone smoothly and as we would've expected and I'm finally back where I wanted to be."
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