Ex-Doncaster Rovers skipper Andy Butler keen to keep playing after surpassing 700 appearances aged 39

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He might be 39, but Andy Butler has no plans to hang up his boots any time soon after surpassing 700 career appearances.

The former Doncaster Rovers captain turned interim manager has been a regular for Russ Wilcox’s Farsley Celtic in the National League North this season, combining playing with his full-time role as Scunthorpe United’s youth development phase coach.

“I’m buzzing for more,” he said.

"I love playing football so it’s something I want to carry on with for as long as I possibly can. I was lucky to play one game, never mind 700.”

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Butler marked his 701st appearance with his 54th career goal in Farsley’s 1-1 draw against AFC Telford on Tuesday and joked: "I have not done bad for someone who got told to play rugby at school.

A number eight when he played rugby union, Butler joined Scunthorpe’s academy aged 16 before making his professional debut three years later as a substitute against Leyton Orient in September 2003.

“I had just signed a professional contract and hadn’t been involved in the squad but I was put on the bench because of a lack of players,” the centre-back recalled.

"Mark Jackson, who is now the MK Dons manager, came off injured after about 20 minutes. From then I never came out of the side. You have just got to take your opportunity.”

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Former Doncaster Rovers defender Andy Butler has surpassed 700 career appearances.Former Doncaster Rovers defender Andy Butler has surpassed 700 career appearances.
Former Doncaster Rovers defender Andy Butler has surpassed 700 career appearances.

Football and the demands on defenders has changed a lot in the 20 years since, but Butler is still holding his own.

“My game has not really changed – I head it, kick it and organise. Pace has never been my forte, even though I’m quite quick.

"I still feel pretty young. Until I get up in the morning and my body goes ‘No’, I’ll keep going.

"I would love to still be playing professional football but unfortunately that chance isn’t going to be there. I think that ship has sailed.”

Football’s ageism problem has probably seen to that.

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"In team talks you look down at players and I’m guessing managers will say ‘get at him, his legs have gone’,” said Butler.

You do get judged. In any other business it’s discrimination. In football it’s the norm.”

Doncaster-born Butler counts his professional debut among his career highlights as well as his two promotions with Scunthorpe in 2004/05 and 2006/07, another with Blackpool in 2009/10 and, of course, that immediate return to League One at Doncaster in 2016/17.

There was also a match-winning goal for another of his former sides, Walsall, against local rivals Wolves at Molineux in the 2013/14 campaign, which Saddlers like to remind him of even today.

"That was a good memory,” he added.

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Butler made almost 250 appearances for his hometown club and spent three months in charge at the Eco-Power Stadium following Darren Moore’s exit in March 2021.

In between that time he managed Doncaster Rovers Belles from January 2020 to September last year, when he joined Scunthorpe to oversee the club’s academy players from the ages of 12 to 16.

"I’m helping these lads try to get to the position I am in now," he said of his new job.

“I’m loving my time here. It does feel like I have come full circle.”