TERRY Butcher was born the proudest of Englishmen and remains one, but the Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager admitted it could be a long time before he leaves his adopted Scotland and comes to settle again in his homeland.
A recently-purchased house in Suffolk is proof of a desire to go home, someday at least, while the famous images of the bloodied bandage and England jersey endure as proof of his patriotic zeal. So it remains to the strangest of paradoxes that Scotland is the land Butcher cannot, or will not, leave.
On Wednesday, after much heart-searching, the 77-times capped international knocked back an eye-wateringly lucrative contract offer from Championship Barnsley to remain at Inverness. It proved a turbulent, emotional rollercoaster of a week in which he was wowed by the Yorkshire club’s set-up and their strong desire to secure him as manager.
It was the toughest of choices after four years of toil at Caley Thistle that have set the Highlanders on the brink of a ground-breaking season in league and cup campaigns. Butcher admits that Inverness chairman Kenny Cameron “nearly fell off his chair” when he showed him the zeros on Barnsley’s financial offer. And yet, when it came down to it, the decision was simple – and it was never about the money.
Butcher, speaking for the first time yesterday about his agonising decision, admitted: “A lot of people think I am desperate to get back to England but it’s just that I can’t get out of Scotland. It keeps dragging me back, even though I think my visa here expired about 20 years ago!
“Every time I try to leave I end up back. Maurice [Malpas] has been trying to get rid of me as well. I love English football and that is where I am from. People say I have unfinished business down there, and I have said it myself before as well.
“But I really enjoy Scotland and always have. English football is where a lot of people want to be. It’s where I grew up and played. But I enjoy bugging people up here and getting under people’s skin and being a nuisance, while trying to make this club the best it can be.”
A measure of the mutual trust between Butcher and Cameron came in the latter’s decision to let him speak to Barnsley with 18 months left on his contract. Butcher makes no bones about how torn he was after travelling from Suffolk to Yorkshire earlier in the week.
He said: “When Barnsley got in touch all hell broke loose. The chairman’s phone was going so much his battery died twice. But to his credit, he let me go and speak to them.
“It was a very tough decision for me. Barnsley were great and treated me really well. And they made me an unbelievable offer.
“They did everything they possibly could to get me down there but I just had this gut feeling I wanted to finish off what we have started here. We want to continue with what we have done in the first half of the season.
“I just thought about the players here and the fact that we are in a nice position.
“I didn’t want to give it up. And I certainly didn’t want someone else coming in and stealing all the glory! There was vindication right away when we got back to training yesterday and the lads were taking the mickey out of me and Maurice.
“Richie Foran, who I signed for Motherwell and Inverness, said he had already been looking at flats in Barnsley. It was great fun – and it was great to be back.”
Butcher, though, may always wonder what might have been at Barnsley. The decision was never one he took lightly.
He stressed: “There’s a lot of passion at Barnsley and the club have great history in the Championship. They have a great stadium, top facilities and some really good young players. There were a lot of positives. But in the end it all boiled down to one thing – I didn’t want to leave. It would have had to have been something really special to go.
“It has taken four years to get the club to where we want to be. It’s not perfect but we have built a platform to make this the best season the club has ever seen. It is also the best spell of my managerial career and some of these players are playing the best football of their careers. We have come through an awful lot in the last four years and it is hard to leave that behind.”
Had he been purely financially-driven, the decision for Butcher would have been quite different. He stressed: “It was nothing to do with money. Barnsley offered me more [than Caley Thistle pay]... a lot more... and then some more again. I would have been the highest-paid Barnsley manager ever. That is how much they wanted me to come in and try to save them and build for the future.
“But it has never been about money for me. It has been about pride and enjoying my football. It’s about making any club I am at better and we are doing that here.”