Terry Butcher has admitted he might not be Hibs manager if it weren’t for today’s Scottish Cup opponents Raith Rovers.
Out of the game after being sacked as manager of Sunderland in 1993, Butcher jumped when then Stark’s Park management team of Jimmy Nicholl and Alex Smith invited him to take a coaching post with the Fife club in return for a weekly tankful of petrol.
And today, while revealing he’ll be eternally grateful to the Kirkcaldy outfit, Butcher insisted there will be no room for sentiment as Hibs and Raith battle it out at Easter Road for a place in the last eight of the Cup.
Butcher recalls with affection his short spell with Raith, saying: “Jimmy Nicholl and Alex Smith gave me my way back into football after I was sacked by Coventry and then Sunderland. I had my hotel in Bridge of Allan and was doing some punditry work, stuff like that but you want to be involved at the coal face and that’s coaching.
“Jimmy Nicholl was brilliant. Raith is a great club. I had a great time there and I still have a soft spot for them. It wasn’t too far from Bridge of Allan for me and my first ‘wages’ were a tankful of petrol. Jimmy used to pay for it. I progressed up to something like £12,500 a year which even then wasn’t big money – but it was a start for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“It was a bit harum-scarum, trying to find places to go and train, the goalposts and bars sticking out the back of the mini-bus, but really good days.”
It was at Raith Butcher met John Brownlie, the Hibs legend now part of his team, as he was when the big Englishman was in charge of Motherwell and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, the Easter Road boss recounting how the pair would feed 40 players at Raith for £7.50 on “baked beans and tinned spaghetti on toast”.
He said: “John was brilliant – he has a great eye for a young player with talent. It was a good set-up. We had a right good laugh, but it was serious stuff producing the young kids.
“I had a short time there. I went to Dundee United in 1998 and met Maurice Malpas there, so in a way Raith was the start, that little step forward I needed in football. Would it be going too far to say I might not be here as Hibs manager today if it wasn’t for that time at Raith? That’s probably true.”
Butcher had further cause to thank Raith when a Dougie Hill goal defeated Dundee to confirm Inverness Caley as First Division champions in 2011 and, of course, their return to the top flight. He said: “I obviously owe them a lot. It’s a great club with lovely people. You don’t forget these days – they were really special.
“However, there’s no room for sentiment in football. I’ve been manager against virtually all my old teams except Caley – which I will do soon – and you want to win.”
Meanwhile, Hibs skipper Liam Craig will miss next Saturday’s Scottish Premiership clash with Ross County at Easter Road after being hit by a one-match ban.
The midfielder picked up his sixth booking of the season as Terry Butcher’s side lost 4-0 to Celtic a fortnight ago, thus incurring the automatic suspension.