TERRY Butcher has played down speculation over potential signings in the current transfer window by insisting he has never been a big spender.
The Hibernian manager dismissed reports linking him with several names and regards the summer, rather than this month, as the optimal time to overhaul his squad. But he said that whoever did come in would not be a big-money signing.
“We won’t be buying players,” said Butcher. “I think I bought just one player at Inverness, that was Danny Williams for £5,000 from Chester. I don’t spend a lot of money. I think at Motherwell I spent £3,000 on a goalkeeper, Colin Meldrum, to get him out of his contract at Forfar. That was big money for us.
“So I don’t think I’ll spend much money here either. I said to the chairman Rod Petrie that, if we are spending big money to bring a player in, that’s money we could use to bring in two or three free transfers.
“We will see. You never know. I could end up spending £75,000 on a player who is out of contract at the end of the season if we feel it is the right thing and Mr Petrie gives me the money.”
Butcher could still engage in transfer activity this month but knows he may have to wait until the last day or two of the window, by which time several players could have agreed their departure from Easter Road. Kevin Thomson, Rowan Vine, Tom Taiwo and Tim Clancy are all thought to be on the way out but, so far, agreement has not been reached with any of them.
“No-one is in or out at the moment,” Butcher continued. “Sometimes it’s a case of crossing people off your list more than adding to it or trying to secure players. A lot of clubs have done a lot of business but we’re not aware of anything that is going to improve us.
“So, for now, we’re keeping our powder dry, but that’s not to say we won’t be doing anything, because the last two weeks of a transfer window are normally the busiest period. Sometimes it’s about waiting for the clubs down south to make their moves first, because that then frees them up to move on some of the guys not featuring much.
“You speak to clubs about players early on in January but they’re not available. Then, three weeks later, they’re back on asking if we’re still interested.
“I call it the dominoes world championships. When someone signs for a club, it frees someone else up and it becomes a domino effect. We want to take part in the dominoes world championships ourselves and do a bit of business if we can.”
Butcher’s squad has already been refreshed in recent weeks by the return from injury of striker Paul Heffernan and winger Alex Harris. The latter is not ready to start at home to St Mirren tomorrow, but his manager has already been impressed enough to liken him to one of the most talented English players of recent years.
“With Alex Harris coming back, it gives us options out wide – or even up front,” he said. “Alex could be another Theo Walcott.
“Theo was always seen as a wide player, and still plays on the flank, but he always wants to come further forward and push through the middle,” he said of the Arsenal player, who is himself out injured for the rest of the season. “Pace scares defenders, and it’s possible Alex could fill a role up front for us.
“It’s like a centre-back playing at left-back – it gives you an option and also gives them an appreciation of another position, by coming out of your comfort zone and playing somewhere different. Alex could play through the middle and I wouldn’t rule that out. His pace will scare defenders.
“He has shown he can play out wide very well, but with pace he can get into other good areas and travel with and without the ball. He’s still learning and still raw and still getting back to full sharpness, but we will look forward to the day that happens.
“There’s a goal threat with Alex, and that’s the point – we want to put him in positions where he can get one on one with the goalkeeper and he wants to get in those positions.
“I feel there are goals in him, and, from what I have seen in training, if you put him through on the keeper then he invariably scores. That’s a good sign.”
Harris is out of contract at the end of this season but Butcher is confident he will sign a new deal very soon. A three or four-year deal is probable but, if the 19-year-old fulfils his promise, he can be expected to leave Easter Road some time before the end of that period.
Meanwhile, Butcher insisted that, although last week’s defeat at Pittodrie had been a retrograde step, he was still confident that lasting progress has been made since he first took charge of the team when they last played St Mirren. “I think we’ve come a long way since then. We have taken a lot of baby steps forward.
“Even last week, when we took a step back, the defensive performance was very good. So I think we’ve come a good distance since that first game.
“The boys’ confidence has been growing all the time. Last week was a dent but I’ve seen no effects of that this week.
“They have been bright, they have been sharp, they can’t wait for training to finish so they can start playing. They want to get out on the pitch and win. And playing at Easter Road gives them a lot of confidence now, where before it probably didn’t.”