Jacob Butterfield’s deadline day move to Middlesborough was low-key in the extreme and mirrored perfectly his time as a Norwich City player.
It was a little ironic therefore that Master Butterfield should choose to take a couple of parting shots at Chris Hughton; his departure providing infinitely more by the way of headlines than were ever sparked by his performances in the yellow shirt.
So where did it go all wrong for the ex-Barnsley man?
It’s not as if he was one that Hughton inherited. Butterfield was one the summer 2012 arrivals; his transfer from Barnsley in early-July coming with bells and whistles aplenty courtesy of some wholesome praise from the then Barnsley manager Keith Hill.
“The best midfielder in the league”, was how Hill described him just prior to his move, with the eulogies reaching something of a crescendo as the deal was struck and he headed south to join his new team mates.
Alas, one suspects, part of the problem was that not only did he arrive with a head brimming full of compliments but also a knee that was not in full working order, an anterior cruciate ligament injury incurred on New Year’s Eve 2011 bringing his 2011-12 season to a premature end.
So while his transfer to City came at a not inconsiderable cost – his age ensuring that compensation was due to the Yorkshire club – it also provided Hughton with a player who was not immediately fit for purpose. A ‘wrapped in cotton wool’ pre-season meant that Butterfield was unavailable for selection early on and not until the Capital One cup game against Doncaster Rovers did he kick a ball in anger.
An indifferent performance that evening – rightly attributed to him not being match fit – was unfortunately symptomatic of his time wearing the City shirt and his battle to ‘catch up’ in terms of his general fitness was one that was ultimately lost.
While I have no first-hand knowledge of the success, or otherwise, of his resultant loan spells at Bolton and Crystal Palace, it’s perhaps telling that neither Dougie Freedman nor Ian Holloway were publicly linked with a permanent move for the player; the cumulative upshot of both spells being seventeen games and no goals.
In fairness, what goes on behind the scenes at Carrow Road tends to stay there – at least if David McNally has his way – and there’s no way of knowing if either manager privately expressed an interest, but the noises emanating from Team Hughton suggested another loan move to be the likeliest outcome for Butterfield this season.
Hardly a ringing endorsement for the ‘best midfielder in the Championship’; a bash at the Premier League appearing to the next logical step for one with such promise.
But as we now know, it never happened, and one can only deduce that there was something in the make-up of the Yorkshireman that Hughton didn’t fancy.
Pure speculation of course but, despite Butterfield’s protestations, it’s inconceivable that Hughton would have seen fit to dispense with his services on a permanent basis if he deemed him part of his short and medium term plans.
If the much vaunted ‘promise’ had shown even the slightest hint of coming to fruition you can bet your life that Hughton would have given it a chance to flourish; the fact he didn’t confirms perhaps that, at 23 years of age, said midfielder’s career has stagnated.
Butterfield himself has spoken of the need to “… re-invent myself as the player I was before”, so maybe, behind the sour grapes, is an admission that he needs to re-start doing the very things that made him the hot prospect in the first place.
Of course, it could be a whole lot simpler, and perhaps the continued success of one Wes Hoolahan has effectively seen off the challenge of a young pretender.
Could it be that Hughton’s early assessment of the hand he’d been dealt had led him to believe that a thirty-something Irishman was on a downward career curve and that some succession planning was in order?
If so, Wes would have afforded him more than a few reminders during the course of last season of the flaws in that particular logic; trickery rather than pace going a long way to ensure the career longevity of Dublin’s finest.
All ifs, buts and maybes of course, but when all is said and done City’s squad is stronger today than it has been in 111 years, and even the cheapest of shots from the ‘best player in the Championship’ is not going to upset the yellow and green applecart.
Onwards and upwards.
I was in America for the pre-season games and Butterfield didn’t impress. Not that he was noticeably bad, he was just pretty anonymous.
Fair enough it was the start of pre-season, but you could see the difference when the Murphy boy was on he clearly was trying his hardest to impress. That was Butterfield’s opportunity to try and force himself into the 1st team plans and he didn’t seem like he really wanted to.
Douglas Millar says
As I did not see Butterfield play (despite seeing 25 plus games) it is difficult to comment. But the logic of the article seems correct. I was interested to hear Ray Wilkins on Sportsweek talking about how some young players fail to step up when they have the chance. Clearly Butterfield has talent but perhaps the manager felt he did not have the motivation necessary.
As for his demise as a City player being down to Wes showing he was still more than capable of performing, I look forward to him doing the same this season!
When he came in last year my sense was that Butterfield was a squad filling player. Like any young player you hope they are going to improve.
Whilst it will never be admitted, the squad options have to cover the possibility that the team didn’t survive in the premiership. In that scenario some of the headline grabbing players leave but the cover players get used.
There is also a different emphasis for new signings this summer, on players who will upgrade the squad, not just fill it out. Given the sense of security in the prem & greater funds available, better more expensive players are attracted. Given the limited squad places, its inevitable players will move on. Some, with little value to the club, will be released early, others get sold for a price.
That’s the game Master Butterfield is. Being moved on in after a year confirms Butterfield was squad cover. If he can show something at M’borough then good luck to the guy.
Dave Hansell says
I can understand Butterfield being aggrieved; from his point of view he’d feel he wasn’t given a chance. I fully understand why Hughton felt he couldn’t risk playing him. Some moves don’t work out for whatever reason – hopefully this move will work for him & he can rebuild his career.
Jeff Henry says
I thought he was given a great chance to impress as a late-ish at Peterborough in FAC3. We were 3-0 up, so no pressure – he passed the ball sideways and back a few times and barely broke sweat. Seems strange – if he had a point to prove, that was his opportunity.
Mike C says
If he is the player he thinks he is, we will find out eventually, but enough about Mr Butterfield already, for whatever reason he did not impress. Move on.
Wasn’t he compared to Gaza by someone?
Hughtons stubborn as a mule. Lambert bought butterfield and hughtons not brave enough to give him a real shot. Those two reasons sum it up.
Got to feel sorry for butterfield….. Ayala…. Fox …. Becchio surman… So on .. So on.
Under paul lambert, players that came from nowhere became premier leauge players and held their own (with attractive football) lambert liked to develop young talent and put his trust in players that had been injured or found themselves out of favour look at vaughan ruddy and fox. Yeh yeh yeh… So our teams got some wiked players now granted.. But you just can’t help but feel sorry for players who never got the lambert treatment because perhaps their careers would have been a bit more fruitful by now… Or maybe we’d be in the championship, who knows?
In the capital cup he was brushed off the ball with ease by the league two players. Shame as he looked good in his Barnsley videos and he undoubtedly has some skill but no great loss to the Premier League
Andy S says
Both Gaza and Gazza have sadly seen more action of note in the last 12 months that Mr Butterfield… I hope he can prove himself at ‘Boro where he wasn’t able to at City, whatever the reasons
Shame, but can’t say i’ll miss him. People talk about the gamble of signing an injured player, but it worked for us with Pilkington. Hopefully Butterfield can start again at Boro. Just the right move for him I think.
My son is a Barnsley season ticket holder and he was banging on about how good Butterfield was a long time before we signed him, so I was really looking forward to seeing him in Canary colours. It’s a real shame it hasn’t worked out for him at Carrow Road. let’s wish him better luck at Middlesborough.
John C says
Yes, it is a shame. I never like seeing players leaving City for pastures new, where they feel they have not had the opportunity to impress, and therefore have some ‘unfinished’ business. He probably has had several opportunities, if only at Colney, but the Manager (and the clue is in the title) sometimes has to make unpleasant decisions. Same as in any job. He obviously saw, with his other coaches, that JB couldn’t ‘cut-the-mustard’ at this elevated level.
Perhaps the early hype inflated JBs ego, perhaps the knee injury left him scarred mentally.
I wish him well at ‘Boro, he’s under a good manager there, that plays football in the right manner, which should suit JB.
Now he has the chance to shine again, and he still has time to be snapped-up by another PL club.
What’s the betting we get ‘Boro in the FA Cup ?
Mike C says
Perhaps you ought to check your facts, Sam. Hughton bought Butterfield, not Lambert. So where does that leave your theory?
As for Butterfield, it’s up to him to prove Hughton wrong. Time will tell
Bit of pathetic article really. Basically, Butters had a dig and in turn the author of this article decided to have his own pop. Despite knowing little, if anything of the background to the move.
What I feel is more likely, was this hughton clearly didn’t believe in the team he inherited, and tried to get in bodies – did so, then realised that actually, he’d been too quick in his judgement that his inherited weren’t guff awful.
Can’t blame butters – the move set his career back.
Rick Lime says
So Jacob B. heads up to the ‘Boro,
Headline today, forgotten tomorrow,
Under the wing of T. Mowbray,
Maybe a more rewarding stay,
His time in Norwich, a bit of a horror.
Gary Gowers says
Michael (13) – Fair point; wasn’t intended as a direct dig at ‘Butters’, rather a look at why it didn’t work out for him at Norwich.
Some moves, for a whole host of reasons, don’t work out – this just looks to be one of them.
Hopefully the lad will resurrect his career at Boro and fulfil the ‘Barnsley’ promise. I wish him well.
Russell S. says
I dare say it would have been little comfort to Mr. Butterfield as he made his way up the A1(M) -A19 to the Riverside, but I would suggest he puts his obvious disappointment to one side and reflects on how fortunate he was to have the PL experience – albeit from the sidelines. The vast majority of young hopefuls never get a sniff of those dizzy heights.
It’s Darwinian evolution – the sorting of the wheat from the chaff. Jacob – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger..that’s the clichés done for now. I do recommend a shop for winter clothing though. Having lived in Newcastle, by Christ it can get cold up there.
I wish him well but ‘Boro don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of promotion.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of his time at Carrow Road (and I doubt that the full truth will ever be known)there were three things he needed to do on arrival at the Riverside. Keep his mouth shut. Get his head down and work hard. Prove that those predictions of a year or two ago were spot on. Seems to me that he has already failed on one out of the three.