Footy people on TV: Terry Butcher

Date published: Friday 23rd September 2016 12:46

Fashion police
A man not born to wear fashionable clothes. Makes Ian Botham look like Jean-Paul Gaultier. Wears blazers without irony. The very definition of Dad Clothing. Normcore before norm, or indeed, core. All trousers are slacks, mostly in grey and black. Slacks are great. Doesn’t understand what is wrong with Alan Partridge’s attire. Sees ties as a measure of a man. They are the glue which holds society together. Lack of ties is virtually anarchy. Sweaters are V-neck and made by Pringle and bought by the wife from a ‘designer labels outlet’ on a retail park, on the edge of Any Town UK.

Would never not look the business in the 19th Hole. Tie is always loosened at same rate as cheeks become flushed.

You’d hope he has a Union Jack waistcoat, though.


Lingo Bingo
Though born in Singapore, he was brought up in Suffolk and that invests its denizens with an accent that is halfway between the frankly surreal Norfolkian and the neck-twitching, orange face of Essex geezer.

It manifests itself most prominently in an inability to say a ‘g’, which is also a classic Norfolk characteristic, as I’ve noted in reviewing Chris Sutton.

These days he mostly works on 5live during England games. He loves it when England sticks it to anyone, but especially Germany. He was doing co-comms during the friendly against Germany this year. As Eric Dier scored the winner, Butch was yelping and cheering off mic with that special kind of delight that football occasionally delivers. But you do feel he’s still fighting the war, somehow.

Most likely of any pundit to say that something unpleasant happening to you, up to and including going to war will ‘make a man of you’. Often views football through these sort of rose-tinted glasses which sees abuse and hate as affection and love.


Hits and misses
His huge hit was to be a fierce centre-half during football’s dirtiest era and to captain his club and country. What an honour and achievement. Never won anything with England, obviously. But this won’t stop him referring back to those days as though they did, unlike the modern lavender-scented losers who are not fit to wear the shirt.

Misses might be said to be almost all of his managerial appointments across the last couple of decades. The last being at Newport County in League Two, where he got five points out of a possible 30 before getting canned. Also managed to get Hibernian relegated, a game I was at. You wouldn’t have seen a more limp display in an impotence clinic. Possibly caused by wearing headphones. Did very, very well at Inverness Thistle, though. Also sat alongside Scotland manager George Burley, for a while, as though a glutton for hate.

But his real contribution, above and beyond the game, is to become a definitive image. There are few in life who by luck, circumstance or choice, come to define something. Few who can become emblematic of something bigger than themselves, who can be clutched to the over-sized bosom of the nation, who can be held up as an example to follow, and against whom other people will be judged and usually found wanting. Terry B, is one such man. And all because of this.

It defines, not just an era of football, not just a man, it virtually defines a way of life and a set of values. To some, this is what is what England should be all about, not just in football, but both literally and metaphorically, in everyday life. It is A Lion. It is God for Harry England and St George. It is Brexit. It is roast beef. It is sticking it up Johnny Foreigner. It is bravery. It is A Good Thing because bleeding from a gaping head wound for your country is a great achievement. Today’s nancy boys probably don’t even have blood; they have Calvin Klein perfume in their veins.

Yes, this is what it is like to be A Real Man.

A Football Man.

A Proper Football Man.

If you don’t look at that image and feel a prickle run up your spine, if you don’t feel like you’ve had your birthright sold down the river by foreigners and girly men wearing headphones, if you think “the game is gone”…this is the image that embodies all that football and society should be about. But if you don’t feel those things and are looking at it thinking, “Are you alright, Terry? Should I call an ambulance?” Well you are What Is Wrong With Things Today.

This week Butcher summed up so much attitude in so few words when talking about everyone’s favourite cartoon footballer, David Luiz.

“Stop pulling your socks over your knees and stop wearing these blooming undershorts and the big hair.”

Seeing the height of socks as a weakness, and wearing something to protect your hamstrings likewise is, in TB’s world, a comment on the values of society, as much as it is about football. It says you are weak. You are self-regarding and precious. You are namby pamby.

Who even says “blooming” these days? This is all part of the widespread ex-player notion, that “there are no characters in the game these days”. You hear this all the time. Modern players, they’ll cry into their couscous salads if you shout at them, y’know. They’re all pampered. And this is where headphones come in again. They all wear headphones and Butch, along with many ex-players, hate headphones and see them as Wrong. So much so that fellow England team-mate Chris Waddle has reduced the whole thing problematic culture down to just three words. “It’s all headphones.”

Butch said “we didn’t have them in my day” which just isn’t true. Headphones have been around since before Terry was born. And we used to walk around with them plugged into cassette players in 1973, so I’m sure Terry could have had one on the bus at Ipswich Town on which to listen to his beloved heavy rock music. He’d never say any of this about John Terry, a man who actively tries to get a head wound every time he plays – but also wore long socks over his knees and undershorts and has headphones. I’ve seen them.

Oh and players in Terry’s day had big hair too. This isn’t a symptom of foppish modernism. Didn’t he ever see Phil Thompson’s bubble perm or George Berry’s impressive ‘fro? It is classic old-mannishness to reinvent the past merely to fit a current world view. Oh and TB, son, you won nowt for England, and your teams took a regular kicking for terrible performances. So your way – how good was it really?

Watch any interview with Butch talking about his Rangers days and it sounds like both physical, psychological and emotional torture. He was an English interloper and will list a litany of abuses, both small and large, physical and mental and then laugh it off as banter. Or after saying how horrible and scary something was, will finish by saying “it was great”. Was it? Was it really great to be terrified you were going to get ripped apart by Celtic fans, or Souey or Graham Roberts? Did wearing your socks a few inches lower help you cope, perhaps?

And yet, and yet…there is great value is listening to Terry B on the radio or TV. Even though much of what he says is silly rubbish, I do really enjoy him. He’s cheerful, and one would hope has had a nip of something warming in his blood as he comes on air. He’s only two years older than me, but it feels like he’s my granddad talking about a golden era, long since passed. And whether you agree with him or not, there is always pleasure in listening to views firmly held. The fact he’s so passionate about England is heart-warming, somehow, given the watery gruel served up by the national team. Who among us could be arsed to care quite so much?


Big club bias
No no no. The true Proper Football Man understands that it’s all about the roots and not the branches.


Loved or loathed?
I think it’s fair to say there is an almost unanimous view of TB:

‘Face like an inside out granite balloon….voice like a Suffolk barman with a story or two about boats.’

‘An overblown PFM who hates The Foreigns. Rarely says anything with balance, hence why he is a great friend of ShoutSport.’

‘He was snot-ordinary as coach of Sydney FC.’

‘That bloody picture & him in general encapsulate the insularity and the primitive football culture in UK.’

‘Love his view on Luiz, proper PFM stuff.’

‘Deserves much respect. His Phoenix from the flames with Baddiel & Skinner is still of the best.’

‘Anything that isn’t cheddar cheese is foreign. Butch buys British only…except for on PFM stag dos in Krakow.’

‘Very good player indeed in his time. I also know that he is a kind and decent man.’

‘Embarrassingly old school. Saw his one to 11 thing and each selection finished with “likes a drink” clearly the key criteria.’

‘Always thought he was a stereotypical little Englander but comes across well in the Big Interview podcasts.’

‘He would not be out of place in the 1950s, 1850s or 1850 BC, leading his tribe’s conquests with full blooded two-footed tackles.’

‘Epitome of the blood and thunder British player, which is everything that was wrong with English football in the 80s & 90s.’


Proper Football Man
An old-time preacher of the creed of PFM. A man’s man. A bleeder. A Big Unit. Pashun. Not foreign. Rudyard Kipling, Douglas Bardar, cabbage crates over the briney. The Dam Busters. What what?

If the Proper Football Men were an army marching into war, they’d be led by Terry, striding out front, bayonet drawn, head bandaged, eyes wild, socks below the knee, hair neatly trimmed, Three blood-soaked lions on his chest, and going down in a blaze of glory, but going down all the same.

The fact his management career has been severely underwhelming is also classic PFMing. In fact, you might say that there are only foreign managers in the game today because rubbish English managers like Terry kept being given jobs and kept being not very good at them.

A lifetime of fearless team bonding sessions mean there is nothing he has not at some point consumed, no shopping trolley he has not pushed Gazza around in, no night out that has not ended by singing derogatory songs about Germans or Scottish people, all in the name of banter.

Played alongside Reidy for England so will have a massive tolerance for his high volume intoxicants. 25 pints of horse liniment, dog valium and badger tranquilisers? Not a problem, and after that, we’ll start the real drinking, lads.

One of those old school types who sees ladies as an unwelcome distraction from the drinking and the setting fire to suits. So the attentions of the former Suffolk’s Miss Tractor Parts & Threshing Machine Body of 1979 would be unwelcome, especially when there’s a small man to be thrown over a house.


Beyond the lighted stage
Golf. After Dinner. Charity Auction. All present and correct as lifestyle choices.

But more unusually, loves Iron Maiden and is friends with founding member Steve Harris. Though quite what he thinks of men wearing tights remains undocumented. Nor if he indeed has brought his Daughter to the Slaughter, or has a Fear of the Duck (this is an in-Maiden joke).

Supports the Tories. Of course he bloody does.


John Nicholson

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