Terry Butcher has a very big decision to make, that’s if he’s not made up his mind already. It’s been reported that the Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager was due to hold further talks with Barnsley earlier today about taking over the reigns of the struggling Championship side. There are a lot of people who will think it’s a no brainer for the former England captain. After all, there’s no denying Barnsley are a bigger club, play at higher level, and potentially offer a quicker stepping stone to further Butcher’s managerial ambitions – that’s if he can first keep them in the Championship, which will be an incredibly tough task.
However, let’s not forget the love Terry Butcher has not only for Inverness Caledonian Thistle , but also for his adopted home. His side currently sit in second place in the SPL and even though there are realistic doubts (and he will have them also) as to whether this is as good as it gets for the Highland club, I’m sure big Terry would love to finish the job and welcome european football to Inverness next season. That’s part of the footballing arguement for him to stay, but every time I speak to him, whether it’s personally or when it was for this interview I’m about to share, conversation always turns to his love of the area. The beauty and diversity of the surrounding Invernesshire flora and fauna provides the calming influence and contrast needed to counter the intensity and passion which Butcher was famous for portraying in his career as a player, and which is somewhat now his trademark managerial style.
He might have worn the Three Lions with pride, but there’s no denying he’s an honourary Scot to many. Whether he stays or goes, there’s no doubt the decision will not be an easy one for him to make.
I wrote this piece a couple of years ago as part of my degree:
Former England Captain, Terry Butcher is no stranger to receiving accolades. In a professional career spanning thirty four years, he has lifted silverware as both a player and manager, but it is with genuine pride that he describes recently being awarded a Doctorate of Sport from Southampton’s Solent University as “one of the best days of my life.” All of his family were there, the first time they had been together since Christmas last year, and it was made even more special as he had the pleasure of seeing his son Ed graduate ten minutes before him.
Butcher has previously travelled all the way from his Invernesshire home to impart some of the knowledge he has garnered from over 3 decades in professional football to help Ed and the rest of the students on the Sports Coaching course. The honorary degree was presented in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the football industry. A contribution that saw Butcher continually put his body on the line throughout a playing career in which winning was an obsession. In more recent times he has tried to convey that same spirit and attitude through management and also in the lectures and practical sessions he has taught at the University.
When I last spoke to Terry Butcher, it was back in June and the Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager was looking to add to his newly promoted team for the upcoming SPL campaign. I had turned down a new contract offer with Swindon Town and the former England Captain was giving me his best sales pitch to try and convince me to return north of the border. “You’ll love it up here Easty,” he said, “It’s a great bunch of boys and we’re going to give it a real go this season.” I didn’t doubt for a second that I would love it, and the prospect of playing for a man I had gained so much respect for from our time together at Dundee United was a massive lure, never mind him waxing lyrical about the wonderful scenery and lack of traffic in the Highlands. I had a big decision to make, one of the hardest of my career, and after much deliberation I chose to join one of my former managers, Paul Sturrock, at Southend United. I didn’t think the time was right for me to go back to Scotland, but I was definitely flattered at Terry’s effort to tempt me there, so I must admit there was just a hint of trepidation on my part when I phoned him looking for an interview. I needn’t have worried. “Not a problem, just don’t stitch me up!”, he agreed warmly, although he couldn’t help but mention on a couple of occasions that I could have been part of the success his side are currently enjoying.
That is why these days he conveys more passion when talking about his current position as manager of Inverness Caledonian Thistle than the exploits of his past, although he is still very proud of all that he has achieved. I’m not surprised by his desire to focus more on the present as things couldn’t really get much better for him at the moment. I spoke with Terry at the end of an amazing week that began when his current side earned a well deserved draw against his former club Rangers at Ibrox. That was followed two days later by the collection of the aforementioned degree and in just as many days with the award of SPL manager of the Month for October. Citing the “ups and downs typical of football” Butcher’s week of highs ended on a slightly sour note when Caley Thistle lost to another of his previous clubs, Motherwell. A win could have taken his newly promoted side into third place in the league but Butcher, pragmatic as ever about his recent good fortune noted; “There’s always a low thrown in there somewhere.”
A temporary low if Thistle’s away form is anything to go by. And true to it, three days later his well traveled side bounced back with a 2-1 win at Pittodrie against Aberdeen, extending an unbelievable record on the road which has seen the Highland club go unbeaten away from home for almost a year. Reflecting on the two wins and two draws that attributed to his latest award, Butcher recognises how far his club has come in that time. After being relegated just three months after taking over at the helm, and with pay cuts and redundancies a knock on effect of the clubs demotion, Butcher had given himself an unenviable task. This time twelve months ago, Inverness were languishing sixth in the Scottish First Division but after “a lot of hard work and determination” in a season that included a 21 match unbeaten run, Inverness won the title by a comfortable twelve points. He said, “Last season was magnificent and the way the board are, it gives us a real platform for the future.” The promotion success has carried over into what has been a fantastic start to the current campaign and Butcher humbly dedicates his manager of the month award to “everyone at the club who has worked so hard this season.” He also states that “You’ve got to have the right people around you and I’m very lucky that I’ve got Maurice (Malpas) with me.” Malpas was also Butcher’s right hand man at Motherwell and the former Scotland Captain doesn’t hide his dislike of the Auld Enemy “I know I get stick from Mo every day about being English”, Butcher concedes “but I’m delighted that he’s with me because we can work things out together.”
Butcher has had enough experience of the down side of football management and he certainly isn’t taking for granted the purple patch that both him and his club are currently enjoying. It’s with total honesty that he describes his time at Brentford as a “disaster”. Spells at Coventry City, Sunderland and Sydney weren’t exactly memorable for the right reasons either but in his two spells as boss north of the border, he has certainly done his reputation no harm. Guiding a youthful Motherwell squad to two top six finishes and a Cup Final appearance was no mean feat given the financial difficulties the Lanarkshire club faced at the time, and you can draw parallels with his time there and with what he is accomplishing now at Inverness. I’m not surprised by the impact he made on the young players at Motherwell or by the success he has had with the impressionable squad he is in charge of now, as he’s always been a natural leader. My first memories of big Terry, as my Dad used to affectionately call him, are as a seven year old, watching him lead the Rangers revolution under Greame Souness. I wasn’t to know then that 13 years later I would be sitting in the away dressing room at Ibrox as a Dundee United player in front of the man himself whilst he gave a team talk that made me want to run through walls to achieve a victory over his former club. We won 1-0 that day. During his 18 month spell as a coach with Dundee United, his enthusiasm for the game left an indelible mark on me as a 20 year old in the infancy of my career. Not only was he an inspiration in the footballing sense but Terry was also a great role model for life in general. I have memories of the second most successful England Captain in history laden with balls, bibs, cones and other training equipment, carrying it all by himself to the mini-bus after sessions. Another image that sticks in my mind is of him helping out the lunch lady by doing the dishes in the kitchen of the canteen at Tannadice Park. Over ten years have passed since then and he still remembers; “Maureen’s fish and beans on a Thursday, lovely!.” These sort of things stick in Butcher’s mind because he is a people person.
I ask him what his philosophy is on getting the best out of his squad. He simply says, “There is no blueprint or master-plan”…“I try to tap into players and their mental approach and get them to believe in themselves and the team.” Butcher exudes positivity and he might never again give as rousing a speech as his infamous “Caged Tigers!” rant to his England team-mates during Italia 90 but you can bet that anyone who plays under him will be inspired to give nothing but their best. He doesn’t try to imitate any one particular management style but admits to using “bits and pieces” that worked for old managers and adapting them to his own style. He talks with great fondness for the late Sir Bobby Robson, who he played under for the best part of 14 years, both for Ipswich and the national team. “He was an unbelievable man, made you feel ten feet tall, inspirational in the way he handled you and talked to you, a fantastic leader.” It’s fitting that those words could also be used to sum up Dr. Butcher perfectly and I’m sure his former mentor would be very proud of his protégé, although possibly a tad surprised by his newly acquired moniker.