Butcher haunted by old pals act

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The Independent Online

Very few things have got the better of Terry Butcher in his long and varied career. That makes Diego Maradona and Rangers a very exclusive band. The former England captain and his chubby nemesis are never going to have a re-run of their famous race in the Azteca Stadium 20 years ago, but closing the gap on his old club today at Fir Park would put a smile on his face.

Since taking over as manager of Motherwell in 2002, Butcher has beaten every other team in the Scottish Premier League, apart from the one he captained to four titles during his five-year spell as Ibrox captain.

The Hand of God may still haunt Butcher - though the Argentinian's duplicity in the 1986 World Cup was followed by that equally famous solo goal - but his own hand of destiny provokes outrage and admiration in equal measure with either side of the Old Firm. Butcher is positively revered by Rangers fans for conjuring up the remarkable last-minute victory over Celtic on the final day of last term which made Alex McLeish's side champions. But that was in stark contrast to the pair of 4-1 defeats against Rangers in the League and a 5-1 thrashing in the CIS Cup final. Butcher's even-handedness will come into question if he cannot jettison that wretched record soon.

The Motherwell manager is not helped by the fact that he has to omit one of his most impressive contributors today. Brian McLean, a centre-back, has excelled since coming on a season's loan from Ibrox, but McLeish has insisted that the 20-year-old cannot play against his employers. Indeed, the loan system used in the SPL angers Butcher. "I wish we had the one they have in England where you can make short-term loans for a month," he said. "In Scotland, you have to take the player for four months and no one is keen to let anyone go at this stage in case of injuries.

"We are trying to get a striker in. We have some really young boys who could fill in but that is a really specialised area and sometimes you need players with a bit more experience."

Rangers have no such problems. McLeish will be giving a League debut today to Kris Boyd, who justified the £400,000 paid to Kilmarnock by netting a hat-trick in last weekend's Scottish Cup rout of Brechin City.

"I have always been a big fan of Kris," said Butcher. "Signing him is a major piece of Rangers jigsaw completed now. He always seems to score against us when he was at Kilmarnock. I have no doubts he is going to be one of the top players in this country. He is going to keep improving with the good players around him at Rangers and will get into the Scotland squad. The world's his oyster."

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