On the day that Pat Fenlon resigned as Hibs manager, Owain Tudur Jones had sat in front of the media waxing lyrical about his gaffer. He had no inkling of what was about to unfold and was fulsome in his backing of the Irishman.
But, once news had filtered out of who may be in the running to replace the outgoing Fenlon, he was in no doubt who he wanted to succeed him.
“I was pleased when [Terry Butcher] was linked with the job. If you’ve worked with a manager previously, at least he knows what you are like.”
The midfielder was signed for Inverness Caledonian Thistle by Butcher, who Tudur Jones says has an aura about him, and spent two years working with him and assistant manager Maurice Malpas in the Highlands.
“The thing with the gaffer is he is how you see him. He’s honest and hard-working and he likes his team to play that way.”
Tudur Jones left the club in the summer for a new test in the capital and he is happy that he left on good terms, but he doesn’t expect any preferential treatment.
“My reasons for leaving, I said it at the time, was a new challenge and to try to help this football club grow to get into the top six. If anything, that’s been justified by the gaffer making the same move,” he said.
“But, make no mistake, from a personal point of view, I’m certainly not expecting any favours just because I’ve played with him previously. He knows what I can do. Whether he plays me or not, it’s about working hard in training. There’s good competition for places in midfield here and whoever plays is going to have to play well continuously to stay in the team.”
Familiar with Butcher’s high standards, Tudur Jones knows that everything has to be earned under the former England captain and Malpas and he has already warned his colleagues about the outbursts they can expect if they fall short of the manager’s expectations.
“When we went up to play Inverness that wall [that Butcher punched] next to his office had been plastered up, which was good to see. But there had been a big hole the size of his fist there. I’ve also seen a water cooler destroyed into about 30 different pieces and springing around the dressing-room,” he said.
“But you know what you get from him. It’s all about standards. If you play well and give it everything, he won’t be like that. It’s only at times when he feels your application and performance isn’t good enough. That’s when he shows his temper.”
The minute Butcher was installed as one of the bookmakers’ favourites to take over at Easter Road, Tudur Jones says he was inundated with queries from his team-mates.
“Obviously I lied to them and told them he was a great guy,” he said, tongue in cheek. “But, when it comes to training, Maurice takes most of it and it’s a style that I’ve known.
“We’re hoping they come in and, with the work we’ve done so far, they add a structure to the team that has maybe been missing the past few weeks.
“Pat felt, because of how results were going, that it was time for him to leave and it is certainly not my place to point any fingers at any systems or whatever – that is for other people to decide. But, of course, things will be different. Every manager is very different. Training has been good, the tempo has been very good and that is what we will be looking to bring into games. If teams are going to have success against us they are going to have to work hard to do it.”
But the 29-year-old Welsh international is confident there are enough players both capable of and willing to take things forward. “He’s not coming here to take over a bunch of chumps who are unfit and can’t play football,” said Tudur Jones. “But he’ll know we’re low on confidence and that we’re the lowest scorers in the league. There’s a reason for that and it’s up to him to try to rectify that.
“I think we can adapt to what he’s looking for pretty quickly. This isn’t a team who are languishing at the bottom of the table. We’ve had a bad run recently which has opened up a gap between us and the teams above us – we need to put that right. But he’ll have seen good signs here.”