GUY BUTTERS saw plenty of highs and lows in a 20-year playing career that started with great promise at Tottenham Hotspur and included six years at Brighton, where he still works.
Butts coaches for Albion in the Community, he’s scouted players, hosted hospitality lounges and still turns out to play in charity matches, not to mention sharing a constant flow of corny jokes with his 3,600+ followers on Twitter! [Follow him @GuyButters].
Promotion via the play-offs at Cardiff in 2004 and being chosen as player of the season would be up there in terms of highs with Brighton.
My personal favourite came on 13 November 2004, when Butters scored the only goal of the game as Albion committed daylight robbery in front of 29,514 packed into West Ham’s Boleyn Ground.
Brighton were up against it going into the game and had taken veteran Steve Claridge on for a month to help them out of a striker crisis. Hammers threw everything at the Albion that afternoon but somehow the Seagulls kept the ball out and, on 68 minutes, Butts, up for a Richard Carpenter free kick, got his head on the end of it to send the ball into the back of the net in front of the Seagull faithful.
Even after versatile Adam Virgo and Hammers’ Haydn Mullins were sent off for a scrap on 74 minutes, and West Ham bought on substitute Bobby Zamora, the scoreline remained 1-0 to the Albion.
A couple of months later, it was obviously a special day for Butters when, on 8 January 2005, he was given the captain’s armband to lead the Albion in their third round FA Cup tie against Spurs at White Hart Lane.
- A programme portrait and skipper for the day in the FA Cup at White Hart Lane.
The matchday programme recalled how Butters “was very much the discovery of the 1988-89 season when manager Terry Venables lifted the tough tackling former Spurs trainee from our reserves to the first team to play alongside Gary Mabbutt and Chris Fairclough in a back three.
“Guy was also in there alongside such names as Paul Gascoigne, Chris Hughton, Chris Waddle, Paul Walsh, Terry Fenwick, Paul Stewart, (former Brighton Cup Final hero) Gary Stevens and Paul Allen. And he kept his regular place the following season when Gary Lineker was added to the squad.”
Born on 30 October 1969 in Hillingdon, he made his debut shortly after his 19th birthday in a League Cup game against Blackburn, and suffered the agony of scoring an own goal. But on his full league debut as a sub against Wimbledon on 12 November 1988, he made amends with a goal in the right end.
“We won that one 3-2 but it’s probably better remembered by Spurs fans as the game in which Gary Stevens was injured following a tackle by Vinnie Jones,” Butters told the Spurs programme.
“I’ve got great memories of my time at Tottenham but, looking back, I recall spending much of my time trying to avoid Gazza who was always up to something! But it was the players around me that I will never forget – I was in there with men who had appeared in World Cups, and that’s my abiding memory.”
The year after his Spurs debut, Butters also earned international honours. In June 1989, he was involved in three England under 21 tournament matches in Espoirs de Toulon matches.
He started in the 3-2 defeat to Bulgaria on 5 June, and was replaced by substitute Neil Ruddock. Two days later, he came on as a sub for Dean Yates in England’s 6-1 thrashing of Senegal in Sainte Mazime. Two days after that, he came on as a sub for Ruddock, as the under 21s drew 0-0 with the Republic of Ireland in Six-Fours-les-Plages.
Of that side, Carlton Palmer, David Batty and David Hirst went on to gain full England caps, but those three games were Butters’ only representative appearances.
After limited game time at Spurs in the 1989-90 season, Butters went out on loan to Fourth Division Southend United, scoring three times in 16 games.
Steve Sedgley, Fenwick and Gudni Bergsson were all ahead of him as potential partners for Mabbutt so, on 28 September 1990, he was transferred to Portsmouth for a fee of £375,000, having made a total of 35 league appearances for Tottenham.
At Pompey, he played at the back alongside Kit Symons and colleagues included Mark Chamberlain on the wing and Warren Aspinall up front, together with his ex-Spurs teammate Paul Walsh, now better known as a Sky Sports pundit.
But there were mixed fortunes for Butters at Pompey, which he spoke about in a November 2016 interview for the Portsmouth website. He was there six years and enjoyed some good times when Jim Smith was manager.
He had a brief spell on loan with Oxford United in 1994 and he eventually realised his time at Fratton Park was up when a regime change saw the arrival of Terry Venables, who was the Spurs boss when he was sold to Portsmouth.
Tony Pulis signed him for Gillingham for £225,000 on 18 October 1996 and, in six years at Priestfield, one game in particular stands out for the unfortunate pivotal moment Butters played in it.
It was 30 May 1999, the Football League Second Division play-off final to determine the third and final team to gain promotion and Gillingham were up against Manchester City, remarkably, at that time, struggling to get out of the third tier of English football.
Goals from Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor on 81 and 87 minutes looked to have given Pulis’ side victory. But Kevin Horlock had pulled one back for Joe Royle’s City and, as normal time expired, former Albion loanee Paul Dickov equalised for City in the fifth minute of added on time to level the scores at 2-2.
With no further scoring in extra time, it went to penalties. City scored three of their first four; Gills had scored only one of their three. So, the pressure was on Butters, the fourth penalty taker, to bury it to keep the Gills in it.
When Butters stepped up and hit it low to ‘keeper Nicky Weaver’s left…. it was within the 20-year-old’s reach, and he pushed it away. Cue wild celebrations as City won the shoot-out 3-1.
“Missing that penalty was one of the worst moments of my life but you have to move on and I am not afraid to have another go,” Butters told interviewer Alex Crook in an article for the 2004 Division Two play-off final match programme. “At the time, I just wanted the ground to swallow me up but nobody blamed me because it was just one of those things.”
Consolation for Butters came the following year when Gillingham returned to Wembley and on that occasion won 3-2 in extra-time against Wigan Athletic. As with Pompey, Butters had six years in total with the Kent club and played 159 league games before being released in the summer of 2002.
The 2002-03 season was already under way by the time Butters joined Albion on a free transfer and, in the September, he was doing his own personal pre-season workout programme in a bid to get fit.
“When I first came here I had to do a lot of extra work with Dean White,” Butters told Brian Owen, of the Argus. “It was a case of trying to cram a lot of stuff into a little space of time. I wasn’t really getting too much time to recover after it.”
The managerial change from Martin Hinshelwood to Steve Coppell didn’t do Butters any favours either. Virgo and Butters were the centre back pairing for Coppell’s first match – a 4-2 home defeat to Bristol City – and both were then discarded into the wilderness. Virgo went on loan to Exeter and, after Coppell brought in Dean Blackwell to play alongside Danny Cullip, Butters was sent out on loan to Barnet.
But when injury meant Blackwell’s career was over, the door opened again for Butters and he seized the opportunity to such an extent that as Albion won promotion back to the second tier via the play-offs, he was voted player of the season.
• 2004 Player of the Season pictured by Bennett Dean.
In fact, it was the arrival of Mark McGhee to succeed Coppell that was very much a turning point in Butters’ career because he had previously been considering hanging up his boots.
In Match of My Life (www.knowthescorebooks.com), he said: “Mark was a real breath of fresh air as manager. Straight away he helped me with a special diet and fitness programme aimed at improving my general match fitness, but, more importantly, helping me work towards prolonging my professional football career.
“He was the first manager to do that and under his guidance I began to thrive and really enjoy my football again.”
As the Argus previewed the 2004-05 season with a special publication, they declared: “Buoyed by a great run of form in last season’s run-in and looking in good shape in training, Butters is ready for another stab at the second tier of English football.”
And Butters said: “This year I did a bit in the summer when I was on holiday and the gaffer put us through our paces so I’m sure that when the season starts I’ll be pretty match fit.
“It’s a big step up but, if we can get a few results away from home, not too many of those big teams are going to fancy coming to Withdean.”
- The Argus spots a lighter refreshing moment!
- Butters and Cullip were opponents when the Seagulls won at Sheffield United, another moment captured by the Argus.
Three years later, at the age of 37, Butters was still with the Seagulls and looking forward to what would ultimately turn out to be his last in the stripes.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it last year,” Butters told Andy Naylor. “It is probably one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve had.
“I missed out on pre-season last year through injury. The gaffer was amazed I played as many games as I did.
“I cannot see why, with a decent pre-season under my belt and, as long as I look after myself, that I cannot do the same again.
“I just want to go on playing as long as I can and along the way enhance my CV with coaching badges.”
Manager Dean Wilkins finally released Butters at the end of the 2007-08 season, during which he had been sent off for the first time in his career.
He’d played a total of 187 games for the Seagulls and carried on playing with Havant & Waterlooville briefly plus a seven-game spell on loan at Lewes before trying his hand at management with Winchester City and Eastleigh.
- I got the chance to meet Guy when he kindly presented an award at an event I was involved in organising: what a great bloke!