Football: Butcher called by Sunderland

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TERRY BUTCHER returned to management with Sunderland yesterday, 13 months after his dismissal by Coventry, hoping to buck an ominous trend at Roker Park.

The 34-year-old former Ipswich, Rangers and England defender was chosen from more than 100 applicants to succeed Malcolm Crosby, who on Monday became the sixth successive Sunderland manager to part on acrimonious terms.

Crosby led the club to the FA Cup final last May but had only a year's contract, which he was not allowed to fulfil. Butcher, who was his captain, has the comparative luxury of a deal taking him up to the end of the 1994-95 season. Bobby Ferguson, the first-team coach, will be his assistant. Butcher played under Ferguson at Ipswich.

After extensive knee surgery, Butcher had effectively retired when Sunderland invited him to play on a trial basis last August. His first foray into management had ended after he refused to take a pay-cut at Coventry, who maintained he was no longer entitled to the player's part of his player- manager's salary. He has since been a mainstay in a Sunderland side who stand 17th in the First Division. 'I feel fit and I want to play because I'm enjoying my football,' Butcher said yesterday. 'I'd far rather be out on the pitch than sitting in the office.'

He added: 'I've learned from my experience at Coventry. I don't want to make sweeping changes. Everyone knows me at the club and I have a good rapport with the fans, which almost got me into trouble recently.'

Butcher, who was criticised by police for leading thousands of Sunderland supporters in a ritual show of defiance after last month's FA Cup defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, learned yesterday that the FA is to take no action.

One old England colleague, Glenn Hoddle, will be his first managerial opponent today, when Swindon visit Roker. However, it is against the impact of another, Kevin Keegan, at nearby Newcastle, that Butcher's success will inevitably be measured.

Justin Fashanu, 32 later this month, yesterday joined his 13th club when he signed for Airdrieonians on a short-term contract. Fashanu, who had been playing for Torquay, will make his debut for the Premier Division's bottom side against Motherwell today.

Leicester City have signed the midfielder Steve Agnew from Blackburn Rovers for pounds 250,000. Agnew, 27, cost Rovers pounds 700,000 when they bought him from Barnsley in June 1991.