Most people can tell you where they were the day Diana died, or the day JFK was shot if you’re pension age. I can tell you where I was on January 9th 2011, I can even talk you through my late afternoon movements.
I was working a for company in Lincoln as a Marketing Manager (of sorts. I played on the internet and pretended to care about diggers). I was due to go out on site to look at diggers or something, and my boss was driving. Minutes before I was due to go I called up Facebook and saw a post saying Richard Butcher had died. I thought it was some sort of sick internet prank.
Fifteen minutes later my worst fears were confirmed, BBC news announced that Macclesfield Town footballer Richard Butcher had died overnight. It later transpired he died of cardiac arrhythmia. He was just 29 years old.
I cried in the car that day, it was muted and hidden from my boss as much as possible, but I was devastated. Butch had always been one of my favourite players, a hero of the Keith Alexander era who kept returning to serve the club that had adopted him as their own.
I’ve written about what he did on the pitch before. He was a combative and committed midfielder with an eye for goal and a superb work rate. He always battled hard for the club, even when returning for a short loan spell whilst at Oldham, and even when playing in an increasingly bad side under first Jacko and then Chris Sutton. I’ll never forgive Sutton for letting a legend like Butch go, especially not when he handed his shirt to a succession of passive loan players. Butch would fight for my team, and I always respected that.
Off the field he was a gentleman, and that isn’t something I say lightly. Often when people are taken too young they’re spoke of in fond terms, but with Butch it is all true. He was the very first Imps player I ever interviewed, for the Lincoln City Mad website. I’m gutted that it isn’t available any longer on the net, and I’ve scoured old computers to try and find it to no avail.
We spoke about his then-club Notts County, his affection for Lincoln and about his devotion to his partner Sarah. Off the record he told me he hoped to return to City one day, something he did. I might be wrong but I think his first game back was against Ferencvaros in a friendly. I know I was there, I was excited and thrilled to see him back with City. I applauded him out from the side of the tunnel, delighted that my favourite player was back.
Six years have passed since that day in January when I heard he had died. I attended his memorial service a short while later at the Bank, and every January I’m reminded of that awful day. Today I regularly speak with his Mum, Gail. She offered me support when I wrote my book, and I hope the affection that the fans of this club still feel for her son gives her some comfort on days such as today.
So in amidst all of the ticket talk, the FA Cup draw discussion and the planning for fifteen coaches to go up to Gateshead, let us remember to untimely passing of a great footballer, a great servant to our club and perhaps most importantly a proper gentleman.
Rest in Peace Butch