ANYONE fortunate enough to get to know Terry Butcher well will attest to the humanity, warmth and humour which makes him one of the most popular men in football.
Anyone unfortunate enough to get on the wrong side of the big man, even briefly, will have their own eye-popping tale to tell of what Butcher himself describes as the “Mr Hyde” side of his personality.
The prospective Hibs manager would certainly prove engaging company for Rod Petrie yesterday as the Leith club’s chairman talked terms with the 54-year-old who is his preferred candidate to replace Pat Fenlon.
But Petrie might have been tempted to insert a clause in any contract for Butcher which makes damage to the fixtures and fittings in and around the home dressing room at Easter Road deductible from his wages.
Inanimate objects have long felt the brunt of Butcher’s fury after a defeat, Scottish football first witnessing the phenomenon when he was captured live on television booting a dressing-room door at Celtic Park following Rangers’ Scottish Cup exit in 1990.
It is a trait which has followed him into management and Easter Road was the scene of one of his most dramatic post-match meltdowns. In May 2003, while battling to keep Motherwell in the top flight in his first season in charge following the Fir Park club’s administration, Butcher was incensed by his team’s display as they lost 1-0 to a Grant Brebner penalty kick.
Recalling the incident in his hugely entertaining and highly illuminating autobiography, published in 2005, Butcher describes it as “a prime example of one of my rants”. He wrote: “There are two fire doors at Hibs; one was open and one was shut, so I kicked at the closed one with the sole of my boot. It flew open, but because it was locked at the top it swivelled and the lock flew past the right ear of my coach Maurice Malpas, coming to rest embedded in the opposite wall.
“The door began swinging slowly back for me to boot again, and this time the hinges sprang as it hit the wall. Not surprisingly it wouldn’t shut properly, so I rammed it closed because I wanted to have a rant at my players in private about their poor performance.
“Carlsberg sponsored Hibs, and there was a case of 24 cans of lager waiting for us. This became another target. I booted one can, which exploded, showering beer everywhere.
“The can stuck to my foot, and it must have looked ridiculous, but I ignored the looks around me and picked up the case, ready to throw it against the wall. But as I lifted it the cans fell out, bouncing off my feet. I still had the first can stuck to my boot, so I thought I had better leave to calm down a little.
“I pulled on the door and it promptly collapsed, just missing my number three Chris McCart. He had to jump to one side because this big, heavy door would surely have broken his legs had it caught him. It was so heavy that afterwards Chris had a job lifting it off the floor.
“When we went back to Hibs after the incident I noticed that the broken door had been put on to a cupboard right next to the dressing room, the damage in full view.”
On another visit to Easter Road, during the 2004-05 season, Butcher was less than impressed with the standards of catering on offer from Hibs. “Their dieticians produced bacon butties, potato wedges and pizza for our post-match meal,” he wrote. “I couldn’t let my players eat such rubbish, so I took the trays outside and let them drop from a height of five feet to the floor.
“There were one or two players, namely those who had not played, who regretted my actions, not from any moral standpoint but because they fancied a snack!”
Butcher freely admits he struggles to reconcile himself with his actions on such occasions but, as his altercation with the Dens Park dug-out last season underlined, he is not for mellowing just yet.
“After such incidents I always feel terrible,” he reflects in his book. “It is just so against everything I stand for in my normal life. It’s hard to understand or explain, mainly because I am staunchly conservative and it goes against everything I hold true. I believe in the state, the police, and law and order.
“Everyone has a positive and negative side to his or her character. I was brought up to be polite, proper, to speak to people the right way, but inside me there is a certain element that wants to rebel, a streak which from time to time rears its ugly head.
“A certain Mr Hyde, who is lurking in the shadows waiting to come out and shame me, to go against everything I stand for. He is my alter ego. There are times when I need to explode and let the passion flow, and that’s when the monster appears.
“Occasionally the cause is alcohol, but usually it’s simply a red mist which appears when something, usually football-related, has upset me.”
The maintenance men at Easter Road and East Mains have been duly warned.