Them and us – John Butler (Wigan Athletic and Stoke City)

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Saturday’s Premier League clash against Stoke City gives TNS  the perfect opportunity to look back at the career of a legend in the annals of both clubs, John ‘Spider’ Butler!

John who was born on 7th February 1962 and started his career at Burscough, was spotted by scout extraordinaire Harry McNally playing for Prescot Cables and he arrived at Springfield Park on 15th January 1982. He made his Latics League debut on 24th April 1982 against Rochdale at home, a game that resulted in a 1-1 draw. This was to be his only appearance that season, in which incidentally, Latics won their first ever Football League promotion under Larry Lloyd.

From the following season onwards he was a virtual ever present in the team during which time he made 238+7 League appearances during which he netted 15 League goals. He left Springfield Park on 23rd December 1988 and was signed for Stoke City by Mick Mills for a fee of £75,000 at a time when Latics were selling all their outstanding talent in a bid to pay off crippling debts. The Potters themselves needed a replacement for Lee Dixon who was nearing the end of his own Stoke career, and John certainly didn’t disappoint in the Potteries.

His debut for the Potters came against Manchester City on Boxing Day 1988 and he became a virtual ever present in the team helping the Potters to win the Autoglass Trophy at Wembley in 1992 and the Second Division championship the following year. After seven years at the Victoria Ground he returned to Latics on 17th June 1995 and he played a further 51+3 League games for the Blues, scoring once, helping Latics, by then managed by John Deehan to win the Third Division championship in 1996.

He has a pretty unique record at the club having played in all the outfield positions and as an emergency goalkeeper. Just for the record he had a seven minute spell between the sticks during a Freight Rover Trophy game against Bury at Gigg Lane on 2nd April 1985, following an injury to Roy Tunks. Latics reached the final at Wembley that year but John missed out due to an injury of his own.

He retired as a full time professional after his second spell at Springfield Park and he entered the non league scene, most notably with Stalybridge Celtic.

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