Into the Top 30 we go and it is a name whom many consider to be a club stalwart, yet he actually spent seven years playing for Stoke, when the Potteries club were in a higher division than Latics.
I don’t mind admitting that John “Spider” Butler was one of my selections so on that basis I should really explain why. Firstly, when I made a call to run with the TNS Top 50 a couple of months back I listed ten of my favourite players without too much thought or hesitation. It felt like being impulsive would generate the best result and I was pleased to see that the top three players overall were in my selection as they were in most people’s. Yet there were over 150 players voted for overall and hardly any two submissions were exactly the same. Only two people submitted a top ten exactly the same as the ultimate top ten with all votes counted. We really should sort out a prize for those two…..
So John Butler. Why? I don’t know. He was omni-present. A rangy, whole hearted full back not afraid to get forward and tough as old boots, he was also famous for his versatility. In the old Cockney Latic days we used to regularly do a feature on overused football facts and at every away game, there it would be in every team’s match programme: “John Butler has played in every position for Wigan Athletic including goalkeeper”. Now come on, can you imagine that nowadays? Little Albert Crusat at centre half while Mike Pollitt roams about as a sole front man. Mid you they reckon Rooney’s not a bad keeper. But not only was he versatile he was approachable and during his second spell when he was a bit older, I used to regularly chat to him in Ladbrokes opposite the Pagey. Just a decent salt of the earth working class lad plucked from Prescot Cables.
In addition to the game Bernard mentions below I also seem to recall him going in nets once when Nigel Adkins got injured during a home game versus Brighton, an entertaining 3-3 draw. A night game when they were in the process of building the new Popular Side Stand. Is my mind playing tricks on me there?
Spider was another one of those players who let go for a pittance, in this case to Stoke and he went to achieve every bit as much adulation amongst the fans of the Potteries club before returning to Wigan Athletic for a second spell just as the club started to make it’s upward journey and helped the club to the Third Division title.
John Butler Profile by Bernard Ramsdale
John was spotted by Harry McNally playing for Prescot Cables and Latics signed him on 15th January 1982. He made his Latics League debut on 24th April 1982 against Rochdale at Springfield Park, 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 signed for Stoke City 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. 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.
John was voted the club’s Player of the Year at the end of season 1983/84. He was the sixth player to ever win the award.
A bit of John Butler trivia – did you know that ‘Spider’ played in every single position (including goalkeeper) whilst at Springfield Park? He had a seven minute stint between the sticks against Bury in a Freight Rover Trophy encounter on 2nd April 1985 following an injury picked up by Roy Tunks.
THE TNS TOP 50 RUNDOWN
30. John Butler
31. Ian Gillibrand
32. Scott Green
33. Tony Kelly
34. Paul Scharner
35. Harry Lyon
36. Roy Tunks
37. Gary Teale
38. Eamon O’Keeffe
39. Joe Hinnigan
40. Ian Kilford
41. Hugo Rodallega
42. James McCarthy
43. Mickey Worswick
44. Noel Ward
45. Simon Haworth
46. Gary Caldwell
47. Mike Pollitt
48. Bert Llewellyn
49. Bryan Griffiths
50. = Graham Barrow
50. = Maynor Figueroa
50. = Paul Jewell
50. = Graham Kavanagh
50. = Henri Camara
50. = Lee Cattermole
The TNS Top 50 was compiled last year and collected over 2,000 votes from Latics fans across a variety of platforms. There have been initial discussions with the club and other fan sites to turn this into a bigger survey and produce a book of the Top 100 Latics players next year with pen pictures written by fans
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