On this day 1958, Terry Butcher was born in Singapore where his dad was serving in the Royal Navy.
England fans of a certain generation would no doubt hail Butcher as an inspirational captain and centre-half from being handed his debut by Ron Greenwood in May 1980 up to his retirement from international football following defeat in the semi-final of the World Cup in 1990.
He played 77 times for England over the decade, and was one of former Sunderland legend Dave Watson’s young competitors for the centre-half role between 1980 and 1982, and probably enabled Greenwood to leave Watson out of his 1982 World Cup squad.
Sadly, his time with Sunderland as both player and manager in no way mirrored his international success.
Butcher made his debut for Ipswich in 1978 and played alongside future Sunderland players George Burley and Eric Gates under Bobby Robson in the Tractor Boys UEFA Cup-winning team of 1981. He was also Ipswich player of the year in 84/85 and 85/86.
He left Ipswich in 1986 having been lured North by new Ranger’s manager Graeme Souness. It proved to be a very successful partnership, as he captained Rangers to three league titles and two Scottish league cups in four years.
His last game for Rangers in 1990 saw him make two errors that led to goals and defeat, and he never played another game for Souness.
Having been hotly pursued by future Sunderland manager Howard Wilkinson for his Leeds United team, Butcher did move, but surprisingly to Coventry as player/manager in a £400,000 deal.
He played only six games before hanging up his boots at the end of 90/91 season, but after getting off to a reasonable start in 91/92 his Coventry team fell away badly. He was asked to take a pay cut as part of sweeping financial restrictions at the club and resigned in January 1992 after just over one year as manager.
In August 1992 he re-registered as a player and signed for Malcolm Crosby at Sunderland. His former Ipswich coach, Bobby Ferguson, had been appointed as Crosby’s assistant, and was influential in making the move happen.
He would make forty-one appearances in a largely forgettable campaign, where we spent the whole season fighting a dour relegation battle. Anyone who saw Butcher play over this period would probably agree he was well past his best, slow and awkward in movement and prone to error. It was a far cry from his halcyon days as England’s captain courageous.
With the third division trapdoor gaping, Crosby was sacked by Chairman Bob Murray, and Butcher became our first-ever player/manager in February 1993.
Butcher’s appointment did little to improve results, and performances arguably were worse!
We went into the last game of the season against Notts County looking for a result to avoid relegation (or to be done a massive favour in one of the other games involving relegation candidates).
One small diversion during this dire period for the Roker Park faithful was the sight of Butcher conducting cheers at the end of any game that wielded even a point. This kind of “rabble-rousing” should not have been that much of a surprise to us. Butcher certainly was a pugnacious character.
In April 1988 he was convicted of disorderly conduct and breach of the peace due to his behaviour in an Old Firm game in 1987. He followed this up in October 1988 with a £1,500 fine by the SFA after he was the subject of another Police investigation when he kicked the referee’s door off its hinges following a game at Aberdeen.
A huge number of Sunderland fans made the journey to Meadow Lane more in hope than expectation on that last day of the 92/93 season. Our hopes were crushed in a dire first-half performance that saw us 3-0 down by half-time. The game finished 3-1 and anyone who saw this game (and I was one of them) would probably agree, that Butcher had lost the dressing room as some of these players looked like they did not want to play for him!
We were saved from relegation by Bristol City, who thumped Brentford 4-1 and sent “the Bees” down instead of us. This defeat coincidentally saw the sacking of Brentford coach and former Sunderland player Wilf Rostron.
The relegation near-miss prompted chairman Murray to sanction a record amount of money for transfers, remarkable given Butcher’s management record and how things had gone since taking over from Crosby. Butcher hung up his boots again and in came Alec Chamberlain, Darius Kubicki, Ian Rodgerson, Derek Ferguson, Phil Gray and Andy Melville.
The squad looked well capable on paper of mounting a credible promotion challenge, with the six new players joined the likes of Tony Norman, Ball, Bennett, Kay, Ord, Russell, Goodman, Owers, Armstrong and Martin Smith.
What followed that season was for me some of the worst football I have witnessed at Roker Park. The squad looked strong, but Butcher seemed unable to mould or motivate a team.
None of this was helped by a car crash involving four of the new signings before the season even started. Melville, Gray and Rodgerson threatened to sue the driver Derek Ferguson, and none of this could have helped team dynamics. Butcher seemed unable to turn things around as we sunk like a stone. It was very hard times for the Roker Park faithful!
With little sign of improvement, Butcher was dismissed in early December 1993 and replaced by first-team coach Mick Buxton. Buxton was a local lad (Corbridge) and had managed Huddersfield and Scunthorpe previously with some success.
Fourteen wins and only six defeats followed Butcher's dismissal as Buxton got us organised and made us very hard to beat. We were well out of the relegation dogfight long before the end of the season leading to a 12th-place finish.
In actuality, if our second half of season form had been season long, we would have been well in the promotion mix.
Butcher re-emerged as assistant to future Sunderland coach Eric Black at Motherwell in 2001. In a familiar pattern, Butcher took over from the dismissed Black in 2002 and managed “the Well” until 2006. He then had a spell down under at Sydney FC, before returning to the UK for brief roles as caretaker manager at Partick Thistle and Brentford in 2007.
In 2008 Butcher joined his former Ipswich colleague (and former Sunderland player) George Burley as his assistant. Burley had been made Scotland team manager and Butcher was one of his first backroom appointments in Scotland’s unsuccessful 2010 World Cup campaign. Burley was sacked in November 2009 and Butcher left by mutual consent soon afterwards.
Butcher had taken over at Inverness Caledonian Thistle in January 2009 and concentrated wholly on this task free of international duties. A successful period ensued for Butcher and “Cally” as he guided them back to the Scottish Premiership and consolidated their place in the top tier of Scottish football.
His relative success had not gone unnoticed, and in 2013 he took over at Hibernian. Butcher signed Sunderland player Duncan Watmore on the very last day of the winter transfer window in 2014. Things though did not go well and after losing the brutal relegation play off against Hamilton at the end of this season he was dismissed.
Butcher had a short period in charge at Newport County that ended in dismissal after ten games in 2014, there then followed a brief dalliance with the Philippines National team and a spell as a defensive coach in Chinese football. In February 2020 he returned to his boyhood team Ipswich to work with the team's academy. He left this post in 2021.
With an iconic England international career and stellar club career at Ipswich and Rangers, we clearly never saw the best of Terence Ian Butcher at Sunderland. Nonetheless, we can surely wish this warrior on the pitch all the best on his birthday.