Doncaster Rovers: 'It's been an absolute privilege to play for the club' - Andy Butler looks back on his time at the Keepmoat
Andy Butler hopes he is remembered as someone who always gave 100 per cent for Doncaster Rovers after describing the ‘absolute privilege’ of playing for the club.
Butler ended his four and a half year stay at his hometown club last week when he rejected a new deal and opted to sign for neighbours Scunthorpe United, where he started his career.
The 35-year-old admits it was difficult to leave Rovers and it would always have taken another club close to his heart to have lured him away.
“It’s been an absolute privilege to play for the club,” Butler told the Free Press. “I have really enjoyed it.
“It’s a hard way to go. But if you’re going to leave for any club you leave for the one you started at.
“That’s what I keep telling myself – it wasn’ t meant to be at Donny but it is meant to be at Scunthorpe.
“Hopefully I can carry on what I’ve been doing at Donny. I still feel like I’ve got plenty of years left of playing. I still think I’m fit.
“Some people probably don’t think I am but I’m a fit lad. I enjoy running all the time. Hopefully I can carry on for a long time yet
“I’ve really enjoyed playing football. It’s been 17 or 18 years now. I just want to continue doing it because I love it.
“Wherever I go I’ll always give 100 per cent.
“If we come up against Donny I’ll give 100 per cent for Scunny. I hope fans appreciate that.
“Hopefully they can relate to that.
“I’ve always tried to show what I can do as a player because people do doubt you, all through your career and life.
“Hopefully people have seen that I’m still alive and kicking.”
There will be few doubters on that front after an impressive season for Rovers both collectively and individually.
With strong competition at centre half, Balby-born Butler continued to prove himself a valuable player for the club with a string of commanding performances.
And he drove the side on in the superb second leg with Charlton Athletic in the play-off semi-final with his late header sending the game into extra time.
Despite the heartbreak of penalty shootout defeat which would follow, it could hardly have been a better way to bow out from a successful career with Rovers.
“I’ve said to family and friends that it's not a bad way to sign out,” he said.
“You go to Charlton, no expectations. I said in the interviews we’d quieten them down and that’s what we did. We had a full 24,000 against us and it wasn’t a bad way to shut them up in the last minute.
“We tried our hardest. No one had beaten them there since October apart from us in the FA Cup. We gave it a shot and we beat them on the night.
“Probably the first half of the first leg is what let us down. We were just a bit tentative in our play and not really what we're about.
“The second half and all the second game we had the better of it.
“Every Rovers fan I’ve met has said how proud they are of us and what we've achieved this season so it softens the blow.
“This group that we’ve got is probably one of the best that I’ve worked with in terms of workrate and just being honest and reliable.
“No one expected us to be where we are and we were probably 30 seconds or so away from being in the final if we hadn’t conceded that goal straight away after we went in front. I don’t think they’d have come back after that.
“The shootout is a lottery and fair play to the lads that stepped up and took one. I think I was number ten!”
Butler arrived at Rovers at a low ebb in his career after being frozen out at Sheffield United mere months after joining from Walsall where he was a talismanic club captain.
An initial loan spell offered him the opportunity to get his career back on track – and realise a dream of playing for his hometown club.
And he says he will be forever grateful for the part Rovers played in restoring his faith in his own abilities.
“It shows you in football – one person doesn’t like you, another does,” he said.
“I had some hard times at Sheffield United. It’s not good and it does drive you into a bit of depression when you’re not playing.
“You want to play every game and that is the competitive side of professional sportsman.
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“When you’re not playing you sit there and start questioning your own ability.
“Then when someone wants you and believes in you, you start thinking ‘I am a pretty good player and it helps you get better.
“I came to Donny because Paul Dickov wanted me.
“You get that feeling about a club and you go from strength to strength.
“When you’re not wanted it’s hard to put all your effort in and you do feel like a spare part.
“Thanks again to Donny as a club for bringing me back to showing I’m good at football.”
Butler has worked under three managers in his time at Rovers, initially under Paul Dickov, then Darren Ferguson and latterly Grant McCann.
And he says they all brought something different to the role.
“Under Dickov it was good,” he said. We had tough times. We didn’t really do anything, we were stuck in mid-table.
“I think the club was stuck in a transition period but I’ve not got a bad word to say about Dickov.
“I thought he was a good manager and a good man to get on with.
“Everyone who speaks with Paul will tell you how much of a nice guy he is.
“I’ve learned a lot off people and as a player you never stop learning.
“I thought Darren was excellent. I’ve never had a bad word to say about Darren or Strachs [Gavin Strachan, former assistant manager].
“They were both brilliant for me. They improved me as a player.
“It was the fine details, they never left anything unturned. I learned a lot from them.
“It was a difficult time after they came in because we got relegated and he could so easily have got rid of the whole team but they stuck with us and made us a better team.
“I think it showed this year how if you keep a team together for a few years, how much they can impress.
“A lot of players were from that era and they’ve showed how adaptable they can be.”
As for current boss McCann, Butler says his positivity and relentlessness helped drive Rovers into the play-offs this season.
“He's been good – a very positive man,” McCann said.
“He just wants you to react off everything. If you make a mistake he just wants you to get after it and try to win it back which we’ve done all season.
“When we lose the ball we swarm around them. That's what we did when we were at our best.
“When we weren’t like it, at Luton for example, we sat off a little bit and it didn’t suit us.
“You learn different things from different managers.
“Every manager has a trait that you might take into it whenever you do it
“ He’s been good. And good luck to him next season.”
Butler – who will continue coaching with Rovers’ age group set up with the U14s – picked out the 2017 promotion from League Two as a high point of his time at the club.
“The promotion was great,” he said. “It was a good feeling even though we probably should have won the league with the team we had and the position we were in. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“I’ll always watch out for the results and I’ll pop down to the Keepmoat if we’ve not got a game.
“I’ve got no issues with Donny and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. I’ve not got a bad word to say about the club.”