Terry Butcher: One-on-One
Former England, Ipswich and Rangers icon Terry Butcher is perhaps unique in being able to unite fans north and south of the border in a chorus of admiration. On a flying visit to one of his old managerial stamping grounds, Motherwell's Fir Park, 'Butch' – now seasoned media pundit and Scotland assistant coach – has invited FourFourTwo to join him for an early-morning bowl of porridge and a bacon butty, while he answers your questions.
As honest and uncompromising as he was as a player, Butcher also displays a deadpan humour. Just don't expect him to laugh about the Hand of God, even after all these years...
Is it true you worked in a butcher's growing up? Did you ever sneak out with a few steaks under your overalls? What's your favourite meat?
Jake Green, via e-mail
I did work in a butcher's shop. I was a butcher's boy – literally – with Dewhursts. I never sneaked any meat out, but there was quite a bit ready to be thrown away that I took home – mainly sides of pork, and pork crackling. My favourite meat is lamb, any kind of lamb.
How did an England captain who won 77 caps come to be born in Singapore?!
My dad was a signalman in the Royal Navy, stationed in Singapore. My mother came out to join him and I was born in late 1958. I always say I was conceived in England and born in Singapore, though I'm not sure. I was there about two years. I'm told when we came home I used to fall over all the time because I wasn't used to wearing a coat. In Singapore I just went about in a nappy as it was so warm.
How close did you come to signing for Norwich? How did it feel to sign for Ipswich, the team you supported as a boy?
Gregg Harris, Plymouth
Norwich never offered me a contract. I went on a trial there and they asked me to come back, but I already had a trial lined up with Ipswich the following week. Ipswich were my team, so when they offered me a contract it was a case of "Wow, got to take it." And they put me on £50 a week, which in 1976 was a huge amount of money for a 17-year-old. It was a no-brainer.
Many of your Ipswich team-mates appeared in Escape To Victory in 1981. You were playing for England by then, so how come you weren't offered the gig? Don't tell me they thought those guys were better looking than you!
Tim Norman, Leicester
Everyone was better looking than me, and spoke better than me, though I'd draw a line at Johnny Wark. The simple answer is I went on honeymoon with my wife. We were married in 1980, and in the summer we went to Cyprus. You hear the stories about the filming and the drinking, and there were some wonderful people involved, so it would have been fun. But when the film came out I was glad I wasn't in it. It was that bad that it was almost good.
Ipswich chairman John Cobbold was a legendary drinker. Did you have sessions with him? Who was the last man standing?
Elinor Smith, Stowemarket
We had a few. I remember one in Hawaii, my first trip away with Ipswich in 1977. I was just 18 and included in the party because a lot of the first-team players were off playing the Home Internationals. We were there during the Queen's Jubilee, and I remember we all gathered to toast her health. Mr John and, Pat, the Cobbold Brothers, got us onto the Mai-Tai cocktails. Five hours later, I remember trying to get up and I couldn't. They were still supping away. That was my first taste of drinking with the Cobbolds. I enjoyed many drinks with them after that.
Just how good were Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen for Ipswich Town?
Pete Williams, Liverpool
They had a huge impact. Arnold came in 1978, just after Ipswich had won the FA Cup. He didn't like the football the team was playing, which was very much back to front. We had to change the whole style to play through Arnold. It was a good job we did, and good foresight on the part of Bobby Robson and Bobby Ferguson to change the style. Frans, who came later, was a different type of player. Arnold was a long passer, very skilful on the ball; Frans was a dribbler. We used to call him 'the Hook of Holland' because he used to hook the ball round with his right foot and go past people. We had to learn to play it through the midfield, with Eric Gates behind the strikers, and the system was born. Those two were integral to the success of Ipswich from 1978 to 1982. All the kids looked up to them, they were great professionals and they left a legacy, laying down a style that Ipswich have tried to play ever since.
What happened in that 1982 FA Cup third round tie between Ipswich and Luton when you lost all those pints of blood? How close were you to a sticky end?
Dave Hooper, via e-mail
Not that close. I had five weeks in hospital, lost a stone and a half and had 19 units of blood transfused. I had to have a couple of operations, as they couldn't find out why the bleeding kept stopping and starting. They were worried my body would start rejecting the blood. But luckily the second op went well. A faith healer sent me a handkerchief to put on my nose. They promised to pray for me at a certain time, and that the bleeding would stop. And it did. I'd have been sceptical before, but I'd never dismiss it now. At the time you cling on to anything you can, and it helped me.
Was Bobby Robson always bad at remembering names? Got any funny stories about the great man?
Lee Cook, via e-mail
He was always like that. At times you weren't sure who he was talking to. He'd played with the fathers of several of the England players. Mark Hateley was always getting called Tony. And John Barnes was David, as we had a black David Barnes at Ipswich. The lads didn't mind: it was a laugh, and he saw the funny side too. He was the gaffer and everyone had the ultimate respect for him. We loved him. He's a great man.
I think it's important to highlight what he did for English football, at Italia 90 in particular, and the way he went about his work with Ipswich, Newcastle and all those continental clubs. He should be remembered for all the great things he's done.
As the youngest player in the 1982 World Cup, were you ever picked on or the victim of any elaborate pranks?
Brian Carter, Doncaster
No, no pranks. But I was in awe of the likes of Keegan, Brooking and Trevor Francis, and it was just wonderful to be there. My wife Rita came out with our son Christopher, who was just 12 months old. They didn't have WAGs in those days. Christopher saw his first World Cup game aged 12 months, England vs Kuwait, and I sat in the stand feeding him, as I was suspended. Not many players would do that today.
Was it easier or more difficult for you to get in the England team when Bobby Robson became manager, because of your history at Ipswich?
Thomas David, Eastbourne
We used to live 300 yards from each other and the joke was that I was in the England team because I used to cut his grass and walk his dog. He was very good for me. I served under him from 1976 to 1990 – 14 years – with Ipswich and England. He was the best boss I ever worked for.
Ipswich were relegated in 1986, the same year the Hand of God knocked you out of the World Cup. Which felt worse? Is it true you tried to storm into the Argentina changing room after the game?
Martin Carrol, Chesterfield
Ipswich getting relegated. They were two horrible incidents, but going down was worse. I remember going into Bobby Ferguson's office – he was the manager then – when Oxford had beaten �Arsenal on the Monday to stay up. I went in to see him on the Tuesday, and we both just sat there and cried. A horrible, bitter feeling – something you never get rid of. It makes you more determined not to let it happen again.
The 'Hand of God' was a freak thing. I was more angry about the second goal because of the way he beat me. He beat all the other England players just once, but he seemed to beat me twice. Little bastard.
Me, Gary Stevens and Kenny Sansom were selected to do a urine test, so we were waiting around for several hours. We were obviously gutted – tears in our eyes. Then in comes Maradona with two of his cohorts, jumping about. When they saw us they calmed down a bit, out of respect. I hadn't seen the first goal clearly, so I signalled to Maradona: "Head or hand?" He said: "Head." There wasn't much I could do after that.
It was all pretty awful. It took us ages to have a pee. We asked for some beers, and couldn't get any. And because the bus had gone by the time we were done, we had to get a car back to the hotel. Not a great way to end the World Cup.
You didn't include Maradona in your FFT 'Perfect XI' purely on the basis of his handball in 1986? Come on Butch, isn't it time to let it go?
Kevin James, Exeter
He's a cheat. I'll never let it go. I still hate him with a passion. He's loved up here in Scotland, of course. I still get it in the neck most days up here.
What persuaded you to join Rangers? What other offers did you have?
Anthony Cheetham, Norwich
Graeme Souness was the reason. Chris Woods had already said he was going to Rangers during the World Cup, and we knew Graeme was after a lot of the England squad. I was still waiting for Man United to come in: they'd been tapping me up for three years, but it never happened. So my wife just said, "Let's do it." Souness didn't do things at half-cock, so I knew if he had committed, it must be something good.
As an Englishman, how were you received in Scotland when you first moved north? What do you remember about your first Old Firm derby?
Clive O'Neil, Nottingham
It was brilliant. Half of Glasgow loved me, half hated me. My first derby was at Ibrox, and we won 1-0. Ian Durrant scored with 10 minutes to go, after a Davie Cooper reverse flick with his left foot. Ibrox is a fantastic arena. It's one of the reasons I moved up.
Tony Adams was given the runaround by Marco Van Basten at Euro 88. How do you think you would have fared?
Joseph Mullen, Rochdale
I'd have probably done even worse. At that time Van Basten was the best player in the world. I think I would have struggled there. It was a good one to miss from my point of view. But then again, it meant I never played in a European Championship. I was out with a broken leg, and my hopes of playing were extinguished in about March. When Euro 88 came around, I went on holiday – I just couldn't watch it. Luckily it was a good one to miss. My reputation was enhanced by not being there; we lost all three games.
Why did you fall out with Graeme Souness at Rangers? Who would have won if it had come to blows?
Alan Horn, Bury
I had a knee injury and Graeme wanted to change things round. As a manager you have to make tough decisions sometimes, and he'd never have been afraid of leaving out his captain. I respect that now, but I didn't at the time. We had a major falling out, so in the end I had to move on. It was a case of two big characters clashing. I don't know if I'd have beaten him in a fight. I'd have probably got the first punch in, then he'd have taken the cartilage out of my knee.
Do you still have the bloodied headband from the game against Sweden in 1989? You seemed to be steaming in even more when you came back on – were you with it?
No. If I had the image rights for that picture I'd probably be a millionaire by now. One of the shirts I wore that night is now in the Scottish FA museum at Hampden, which is a bit spooky.
Was I with it? Absolutely. You're captain of your country; it's a World Cup qualifier against Sweden. We had one game left away to Poland, so we knew we needed results from both games. Bryan Robson wasn't playing and Peter Shilton didn't want to be captain on the night, so I did it. I'd have never have walked off, and Bobby Robson knew that if he'd have taken me off I'd have killed him. I was always going to battle on.
It was only two days later when I got back to Rangers that it really kicked in. I was due to do a personal appearance, but I had to cancel it because I felt so faint.
As a huge metal fan, what was your tune of choice to psyche up before a game? Is your taste more mellow these days or have you got Slipknot on your iPod?
Anything by Iron Maiden or ACDC. I still love them. Not any of this modern rubbish, though I like the Foo Fighters. Slipknot is a bit too heavy for me.
Gary Lineker says you psyched up the lads at Italia 90 by getting into their faces and shouting "Caged tigers!". Did it work?
Edward Lane, Ipswich
I used to have my stock of sayings and clichés: "caged tigers" was one of them. It made me feel good. I liked to rant and rave a bit. Gary was the opposite: he was so laid back he just used to lie there and do nothing. He used to laugh at me – it was a case of "there he goes again".
Do you own a Waddle and Butcher "Let's all have a disco T-shirt? Were you never tempted to swap the short back and sides for a mullet?
Neil Bailey, via e-mail
Certainly not – wouldn't want one of those. I did have a bit of a mullet in the early '80s, but I prefer a short back and sides.
You were sacked at Coventry despite the club sitting in mid-table – what happened?
Gordon Parkes, Barnsley
The chairman changed, and as invariably happens, he wanted his own people in. After we drew at home against Cambridge United in the Cup, they felt it was time for a change. I was there 18 months, and we finished in the same position as when I'd started but with a much younger squad, so I managed to get the average age of the team down.
What was it like being player-manager at Coventry and Sunderland?
Chris Downing, Halifax
It was probably a mistake. At Sunderland I was managing players who I'd played with, which was very difficult – in fact, I'd say it was impossible. I was 31 when I was manager at Coventry, with no experience. It was far too young, but when someone says, "Come and manage the club", what do you do? It was the same with Sunderland.
After leaving Sunderland it was almost 10 years before your next foray into management with Motherwell. Why such a long absence?
Melvyn Charles, Wrexham
I left Sunderland in November 1993. I thought, "Well, I've had two early strikes at management, and it hasn't worked out." So, I decided to move back to Scotland and buy a hotel. I ended up doing the Basil Fawlty thing. We had the hotel between 1994 and 1998, though I actually got back into football in 1997 with Jimmy Nicholl and Alex Smith at Raith Rovers, looking after the reserves, in return for a tank of petrol and not much money. But it was fantastic. Me and youth coach John Brownlee used to feed 40 players on £7.50: I baked beans and tinned spaghetti on toast. In 1998, Tommy McLean took me to Dundee United as youth team coach. I left in 2000 to join a venture outside football. Then, when Eric Black became manager of Motherwell he asked me to assist him. I took over in 2002.
Did you enjoy running a hotel? Did people ever do a double-take when they saw you behind the reception desk? James McAteer, Stirling
We'd get Celtic fans coming along looking at doing a wedding and as soon as they saw my Rangers pictures on the wall, they said, "We're leaving." A lot of people would say to me, "Please don't serve me: I can't have an ex-Rangers captain serving my food and drink." Weird stuff. It was fun when you got things right, but all it took was one thing to go wrong and it would affect the whole day. Hard work serving the public, but I learnt a lot about teamwork and standards.
Did you know that Baddiel and Skinner's original lyrics for Three Lions included "Butcher at war" rather than "When Lineker scored"? Which do you prefer?
Hugh Ndah, Milwall
I was gutted about that – I'd have loved to have been on that record. I remember being at Wembley in '96 when England beat Spain in the quarter-final, perhaps undeservedly, when they played Three Lions. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It's without a doubt the best theme tune of all time.
Craig Brown was pushing you to be England manager when Eriksson left. Would you have fancied the job?
Robert Graham, Newport
Was he? Did he have a drink in him? Having known international football for a very brief time with Scotland, it's a frustrating job in that you see the players for such a short amount of time. You can't really coach them; all you can do is try to create a winning blend for a particular match. And there's a lot of bizarre politics in terms of the relationship with clubs.
What's it like being number two to your old Ipswich team-mate George Burley?
Peter O'Neill, Glasgow
He's been a calming influence on me. We have a good partnership. He's great fun, a joy to work with, and I've learnt a lot from him. I wish I'd met him earlier in my career. The way he goes about training and structures his team are very positive. That's why I can't understand some of the criticism he's getting. Yes, he wants a solid defence, but he wants his players to go out and play. And I think the players are responding to it well. The problem is time: it's gone down dramatically. I had 18 months in a couple of jobs. Now some managers get 18 weeks.
I don't know how George keeps the peace [with the clubs and the press], because I'd be ranting and raving and going bananas. George is too much of a gentleman. He's very level-headed and very focused.
What do you say to people who give you grief for being an Englishman who's assistant Scotland manager? Do you get more stick from the English or Scots?
James Fletcher, Ipswich
The English, especially old team-mates like Viv Anderson, Tony Woodcock and Stuart Pearce. They slaughter me, so I try to avoid them. I sat next to Stuart at Wolves last year. He whispered to me, "Next time you're there, big man, take a look in the mirror. How's your conscience?" I remember playing next to Stuart on his England debut. He said: "When are you going to mark, Butcher?" I remember thinking: "Who is this guy?" We know each other well. I like him a lot.
The Tartan Army are great. I did have one fan shout "You English bastard" at me in Macedonia, but someone shut him up pretty quick, and that's the only stick I've had. I think people here know what I'm about, because of my Rangers connection and my time at Motherwell. I've lived 17 of the last 22 years in Scotland and I've loved it. I'll always be English and I'll sing the national anthem. I won't sing the Scottish anthem, even though I like it, because I'm not Scottish. I think that's fair.
Interview: Dan Brennan/Libero Language Lab. Portrait: David Glen Walker. From the February 2009 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!