Paul Butler: Overcoming the non-player 'stigma'
Written by Simon Austin — July 20, 2017
PAUL BUTLER, Leeds United’s new assistant manager, is unusual in being a senior coach with no experience whatsoever of playing professional football.
The 31-year-old went to University and began his coaching career as a 22-year-old intern at Fulham under Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington. From there he went to Oldham as Head of Sports Science and Doncaster as first-team coach.
He admits his lack of playing experience might “make some people perceive you in a different manner”, but there are strong arguments to say his path has been preferable to that of many former top players. After all, he began learning his craft at a young age, had no sense of entitlement, and had experience of learning environments and of being open to different ideas.
Jose Mourinho, for example, was originally a school teacher before going into coaching in his twenties.
Butler said: “I am relatively young in coaching terms. Most people are still playing at my age, but I wasn’t able to play football past my teenage years so I started coaching very, very young.
“I was at Fulham as an intern, studying and working under Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington. I was fortunate because the year I was there they had a record high Premier League finish of 7th and reached the final of the Europa League.
“Paul Dickov gave me my first chance in a contracted senior role at Oldham, where I spent two and half years, and I went back with him for three and a half years at Doncaster [as first team coach].”
Butler says he knew he wanted to be a coach from his "early days".
“I was never good enough at that time to take the professional football path, so after school I went to University,” he said.
“I worked on gaining as much experience on my CV, just to give myself the best chance. I know some people might perceive you in a different manner, but I have to accept that and work round it. I set my goal to see how I could progress from coming through the academic path to being a fully professional coach.”
Butler admits a key reason for his appointment at Leeds is to “form a bridge between the players and Spanish coaching staff". New manager Thomas Christiansen has already appointed Julio Banuelos as his assistant head coach, Ivan Torres as fitness coach and Marcos Abad as goalkeeping coach.
“I think that's the rationale behind bringing me here, my English speaking,” Butler admitted. “The culture of Spanish coaching is different to the English - I wouldn’t say any better or worse, just different.
"Their English is good, so communication is not a problem.”