Doncaster Rovers: Andy Butler – a rock who never stopped proving himself on and off the pitch

It became somewhat of a point of amusement for the local media.

Sunday, 26th May 2019, 18:48 pm
Andy Butler celebrates his goal against Charlton Athletic in the play-offs

A poor result or disappointing performance for Doncaster Rovers typically meant one particular player would be strolling up to conduct post-match press duties

For the Rovers media department, there could be no safer pair of hands than Andy Butler.

Andy Butler on his Rovers debut, against MK Dons in October 2014

Fitting, given that for Rovers as a club, there could hardly be a more reliable figure.

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Butler would defend tough questions and criticism as he would the bricks thrown into the box week after week, nodding them all away with composure and little fuss. In either scenario, there were very few time where he was ever flustered.

In terms of a speaking role, he would quickly look to put things into perspective, pledge hard work would follow and would rarely overreact.

It was the same following what would prove to be his final outing in a Rovers shirt.

Andy Butler celebrates promotion with Rovers in 2017

The disappointment in his voice after the heartbreaking defeat at Charlton Athletic in the play-off semi-final was clear but quickly gave way to a more upbeat tone where pride and positivity were the order of the day.

A week on from the tremendous performance, both collectively and individually, at The Valley, Butler’s time at Rovers was confirmed to be over.

In performance terms, it was the perfect way for him to bow out, again showing all the hallmarks of a player that has been so important for Rovers for the best part of five years.

Colossal in the heart of defence, he helped rebuff Charlton’s undoubted attacking quality time after time.

And he powered home a header, late in normal time to finally deservedly draw Rovers level in the tie. A he ran off in celebration he cupped his ears to the home crowd he had silenced.

This was Butler enjoying himself. He relished tussling with opposition players on the night and wound a few up too.

If it was to be his last game for his hometown club, he wanted to go out fighting in the manner he had throughout his Rovers tenure.

He had arrived in October 2014 with his career at arguably its lowest ebb.

A move to Sheffield United had looked like just rewards for an excellent spell with Walsall. But he was quickly written off by then Blades boss Nigel Clough before he had even started. 

Rovers offered a get-out in the form of a loan.

And while he was literally returning to the town of his birth, the move also offered up a metaphorical, much-needed home.

He quickly got his mojo back, earned a permanent move and became so important to Rovers in the years that followed.

He may have arrived as a 31-year-old, but this was far from a retirement tour.

At any point where there were doubts over whether he could still cut it with the week in, week out hustle, he quickly washed them away.

Commanding, calm, consistent, composed and a born leader, on and off the pitch.

One game earlier this season emphasised Butler’s importance to Rovers.

He had started the game at Shrewsbury Town on the bench and watched on for the first half hour as Rovers were sliced apart by the rampant pace of the hosts.

A concussion to Tom Anderson paved the way for Butler’s introduction. And he went on to demonstrate superb defensive smarts, not entering into a foolhardy footrace with players who could outstrip him for pace easily. Instead, he dropped a few yards off, allowed the opposition to take the ball and turn before he then moved in to dispossess.

It was the sort of wiliness that proved yet again that he still had it. It kept him in the side with Anderson pushing hard every time he had the opportunity to impress.

And ultimately, when it came to his time at Rovers, he never stopped proving it until the final whistle of the final game of this season.

The title of Mr Doncaster Rovers may be difficult to wrestle from his old room mate James Coppinger, for obvious reasons.

But for Butler the connection arguably runs a little deeper than even Copps.

Doncaster is his town. He never left, even when it meant hours on the motorway while he was at Walsall.

He said on his arrival that he thought the chance to play for Rovers had gone but that he was so, so happy it had finally come.

Not only did he give his all on the pitch, he did so off it, throwing himself head first into community work that truly demonstrated his pride in his home town.

On player visits and interacting with young fans, he was superb. It was not a chore because he knew what it meant to the youngsters.

He moves on now, ready to write a new chapter where it all began, with Scunthorpe United. But you would not rule out a full time return to Rovers in the future as his coaching career develops.

As a figure, he will take some replacing.

And the baton of reliable hand for press duties will have to be passed on.

Big shoes to fill.