Ipswich Town legend Terry Butcher in no hurry to return to management
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2014
Professional football has been in the blood of Ipswich Town legend Terry Butcher, quite literally, for almost 40 years.
The image of the defender battered and bloodied, leaving the pitch after England’s 0-0 draw against Sweden, in a 1989 World Cup Qualifier, was one of the most iconic sporting images of the 20th century.
He’s played in a World Cup semi-final, won the UEFA Cup with Ipswich and skippered Glasgow Rangers to several titles, during their long success under Graeme Souness.
Management was always an ambition too and, aged just 31, Butcher left Ibrox to cut his teeth as player-manager of Coventry City, on November 15, 1990.
Almost 25 years to the day, Butcher has experienced plenty of ups and downs on the sidelines, his latest stint ending in disappointment, the 77-capped England international leaving League Two Newport County after just over five months, in October.
Butcher was reluctant to discuss his short tenure in Wales, but sympathises with his peers up and down the country, 18 other managers having lost their jobs since the start of the new season.
Such has been the turnover in bosses, Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy is now the 13th longest-serving manager in the Football League and Premier League, despite having been at the club just over three years.
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Arsene Wenger is the current longest-serving boss, having been at Arsenal for nearly 20 years, while Sir Alex Ferguson stayed at the helm at Manchester United for 27 years.
Ferguson won 38 trophies during his time at Old Trafford, while Wenger – a relative unknown on his arrival in England, 1996, has also won several leagues and cups in charge of the Gunners.
Longevity can bring success. While McCarthy has not yet won promotion with the Blues, the man who led Sunderland and Wolves to the Premier League has engineered a season on season improvement, and hopes to go one better than the play-off semi-finals Ipswich reached last season.
Butcher is certainly an advocate of the long-term approach and points to the Blues of yesteryear as a perfect example of what patience can bring.
“Ipswich are the best example of a club in the past who stuck with their manager,” said Butcher.
“Bobby Robson was coming under pressure from the fans and (chairman) John Cobbold gave him a 10-year contract which was probably the making of the club.
“It wasn’t unusual in the past for managers to be at a club for six, seven, eight years, before the chairman would say ‘perhaps he has had his time’ and most managers would accept the decision.
“Now you are looking at six to seven months. It really is a sad indictment of modern football.
“People think that a new manager will come in and change it around, but in the Premier League you can’t really change the squads anyway until the transfer windows open, so often it doesn’t really make a lot of difference.
“It’s about common sense more than anything, whether the owners and board of directors are prepared to make a change and prepared for an influx of new staff which is usually the case under a new regime.
“There is also the philosophy of the club to consider and it’s a tough call to make. A lot of the time, the club’s judgement isn’t always right.”
Whether Butcher returns to the dug-out remains to be seen, but after more than two decades as a manager, his indifference to a possible return says a lot about the culture of modern football.
“I am quite relaxed about it at the moment, it’s very much a cut throat business. Some people get 18 months in a job, some don’t even get 18 games,” he added.
“It (the frequency in which managers change) puts you off in some respects as you are always at the mercy of a board, who are not always football people.
“You can’t run football the same way you run your other businesses. Football is different, it has a unique atmosphere.”
As for Town, while McCarthy’s record cannot be questioned, other more trigger-happy owners would have maybe developed a twitchy finger during the club’s recent sticky patch.
“There seemed to be an over-reaction from a small number of fans earlier in the season, but most people backed Mick to the hilt,” explained Butcher.
“Every time Mick gets put under a bit of pressure, I like the way the team responds. They don’t want the club, themselves or manager to get any stick and they always seem to get results.”