Terry Butcher

By Adam Robertson
 September 16, 2020

Terry Butcher - Put A Plaster On It

Terry Butcher - Put A Plaster On It

These days modern footballers are often labelled fairly or unfairly as being rather soft, not willing to play through the pain barrier, or put their bodies on the line for the cause, well, Terry Butcher was someone who could never be accused of that. Often the first image that springs to mind when Butcher is mentioned is that of his blood-soaked England top, bandaged head, fists raised clenched in celebration following a World Cup qualifier in Stockholm back in 1989, a game he captained in England in as Rangers player.

I'm not sure there has quite been a single signing in my lifetime that has had a greater impact as a direct link to success for our club than that of Terry Butcher. Yes, sure many more have come in for bigger fees, left with more medals or even holding bigger places in the hearts and minds of the Ibrox faithful but none of that would have ever have been possible if it wasn't for Terry. To set a trend, first, you have to start a trend. 

Back in 1986 when we weren't watching Crocodile "Mick" Dundee show even the most hardened of Govanites what a knife really was all eyes were firmly fixed on the festival of football taking place that summer in Mexico. Maradona and the Danish kit were the undoubted stars that summer that grabbed all the attention whilst as a fanbase we watched, never imagining that some of the tournaments top players could soon be in light blue. 

Prior to that summer, it wasn't just that English international players didn't come to play in Scotland with any sort of regularly before this, no, It was quite simply that they never came to Scotland or even Rangers. Not one player who had represented us before Butcher arrived had pulled on the three lions jersey while at the club, so when Terry lined up for England on the 10th September 1986 away to Sweden he set in motion a chain of events that so far has led to 67 caps spread over 6 players since. Butcher still holds the record as the English player to gain the most caps while at us (32), with his total amassing more than the likes of Mark Hateley, Mark Walters, Trevor Steven and Paul Gascoigne won combined during their time at Ibrox. 

Of course, the stars had to aline somewhat for this all to happen, Butcher was the rock at the heart of Bobby Robson's Ipswich side as he led the provincial club to unrivalled success in Europe, winning the 1981 UEFA Cup, before Robson's exploits saw him leave to replace Ron Greenwood as England boss in 1982. After that Ipswich was never the same again and as Butcher boarded the plane for the World Cup in Mexico he did so with Ipswich being a newly relegated side and very much open to offers on his services. Not that that relegation had affected his stock, he was Englands vice-captain behind the magnificent but often fragile Bryan Robson, so that meant more often than not the captain. Of course, the ban extended to all English sides in the wake of the Heysel disaster certainly helped open the door for this type of transfer, but we still needed someone to walk through it. 

Change was also in the air down Edmiston Drive that summer, newly appointed player-manager Graeme Souness was looking for a player in his image, one that would instantly raise the playing standard while helping set new ones off the field. These days Butchers signing would be described as that of a cultural architect, what he was exactly what we needed at that time. So when Souness met him straight off the returning England plane at Heathrow, fitted suit in hand the deal that would reverse the direction that talent flowed past Hadrian's wall was born. 

Making his debut in a preseason loss to Bayern Munich it was evident even at that early viewing that this was a game-changer, Butcher was a leader of men, his defending was effortless and in the days of clumsy on the ball centre backs, he could pass with distinction from his criminally underappreciated left foot. 

A Skol Cup victory was swiftly secured ensuring that Souness's transition from pitch to the dugout (in a game he watched from the stands, due to a touchline ban) got off to the most impressive of starts, with Butcher captaining the side as we announced in the most dramatic of fashions that the tide had turned. Glasgow was once again blue.

Nine long years had passed since Rangers had been able to call ourselves league winners and if anyone doubts the impact or leadership of Butcher then you need to look no further than the penultimate game of the 86-87 campaign. As the occasion and pressure perhaps got the better of our player-manager, we needed a leader. Step forward Terry Butcher, not only getting the goal that secured our title with it setting free an outpouring of emotion, joy and relief with it bringing together an ultimate belief from both players and supporters alike that this was about to become our era. 

What followed on was two more titles, to go alongside another league cup winners medal, a haul that might well have been more for both club and player had he not suffered a broken leg in November 1987. His departure four years after he joined in 1990 was both swift and controversial coming on the back of the poor form and disagreements with his manager over fitness and commitment levels upon his return from Italia 90, claims certainly not without substance but by that time the changing of the guard was more seamless as previous due to Butcher's influence. The apprentice was ready to become the master as Richard Gough took over the armband. 

I know some amongst our support will now sadly regard Butcher as persona non grata for how he has chosen to handle certain situations after departing us, however, we should never let that cloud our judgement on just how impressive or how important a player he was for us. It's quite simple really, no Butcher, no 9IAR, no Souness revolution. He was the signing more than any other that changed everything. Terry, the player is in my mind the single most important bit of business we have conducted in the last 34 years. 

Steven Harrigan - @steven_harrigan

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