RainhamEndViews recently caught up with legendary centre back Guy Butters to chat about his time with the club.
He talks candidly about leg breaks, Wembley memories, trying to ‘bribe’ opposition goalkeepers, the magic of the cup, being ‘flogged to death’ in training, Hessy & Hodgey spooning and Mark Saunders ‘smoking’ during a league game.
REV: Back in 1996, the club paid £225,000 for you, which was quite a lot for a third tier side. How did your move come about?
Guy: I was aware of Gillingham’s interest having scored against them in a pre season game. I was in and out of the Pompey team so I went up for a chat with the chairman and signed the same day. Sadly I was registered a minute too late so missed the Millwall game the following day.
REV: You broke your leg in March 1998 and ended up missing nearly a year. How frustrating was it having to watch as the lads so narrowly missed out on the 1997-98 Play Offs by just goal difference?
Guy: Yeah I broke it at Millwall trying to clatter their striker. I knew it was bad as soon as it happened and then I had complications during the recovery period having spent so long in plaster. I went to a few games to cheer on the boys but it was difficult at the time as I feared for my career. Luckily I made a full recovery.
REV: Wembley Stadium; not many get to play there, so to run out on to the hallowed turf twice in a year must have been special. How different were the two days, and where did Mark Halsey find all that added time?
Wonderful Wembley memories.
Guy: The first game flew by as it wasn’t something we were familiar with, but our preparation had still been spot on. The build up, the hotel, the pre match meeting and the journey to the stadium all felt right. We don’t know where all the added time came from, but we should still have seen the game out. The year after we were able to enjoy the atmosphere a lot more, especially when the result went our way. Both were exceptional games for us and the fans, and all the more special as I had family and friends present.
REV: Between the two Wembley fixtures, Tony Pulis was replaced by Peter Taylor. How different were the two as coaches?
Tony Pulis – slightly more robust than Peter Taylor.
Guy: They were total opposites, but I have enormous respect for both of them. During Tony’s reign we played not one game of five a side in training, but I had never been fitter. He was incredibly vocal, and would almost encourage us to have a bit of a tear up with the opposition, he thrived on the physical side of things. Peter was a lot more technical and concentrated more on ball work. In fact, when it all kicked off in one of his first games in charge he seemed pretty shocked and discouraged it immediately. Their philosophy remained constant throughout everything, even contract negotiations. Tony would fight your corner, whereas Peter would try to preserve a sense of control.
REV: May 2000, and we all went to Wrexham knowing a win would see us up. It wasn’t to be, but did it somehow feel meant to be that you would get another crack at the Play Offs after the heartbreak of the previous year?
Guy: It was a strange day for me as I was mates (from my Tottenham youth days) with their keeper Kevin Dearden. In the hotel the night before the game I jokingly tried to bribe him with the promise of a few beers. Ironically he then went out the next day and played out of his skin. They scored a screamer early on, then the b**tard kept out my goal bound shot before proceeding to save absolutely everything. We knew at the final whistle that we were destined to go back to Wembley, but still drowned our sorrows on the journey home.
REV: How magical was the FA Cup run of 1999-00? Didn’t you score in an early round to set us on that epic run? What was the feeling after seeing off Premier League Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday? How good was Nicky Southall’s goal? And Stamford Bridge in the quarter finals must have been special despite the result?
Southall’s goal sparked ‘fainting’ amongst the Gills players.
Guy: The cup run was very special. I think I got one in an early round (Guy scored in a 3-1 win over Darlington) and then after we knocked out Bradford we thought we could go far having been drawn against Wednesday. Before the game someone joked they would faint if we scored, so when Trigger’s volley flew in we all hit the deck. Poor old Motty – commentating for Match of the Day – thought we had been sparked out by someone on the half way line. The Chelsea score line I thought was harsh on us, and I remember being cut up in my motor on the way home and chasing the git for about ten miles wanting to knock his head off, such was my frustration.
REV: Did you not score the club’s first ever goal in the second tier of English football? Surely that must be a proud individual moment despite getting beat 3-1 by Stockport?
Butters nets Gills’ first ever goal in the second tier.
Guy: Yes I did, it was a training ground free kick routine. It took a deflection, but a goal is a goal, and nobody can take those records away from you.
REV: Yourself, Barry Ashby, Adrian Pennock and Mark Patterson played a lot of games together. What was the secret to your success, and where did the ‘eggers’ nickname come from?
Guy: Both Carl (Asaba) and Bob (Taylor) were wrapped up in cotton wool by Tony, who said they were ‘the cream’ of the club who could get us promoted. Us at the back repeated drill after drill until we could perform it in our sleep – while those two could come in for training when they wanted – and Pulis referred to us as ‘the ham and eggs’ of the side. That’s where it originated, and from then on any time we kept a clean sheet we would have a good chant about it.
REV: As a defender you must have enjoyed the battle with different types of striker. During your time at the club who was the trickiest front man to play against?
Guy: Both Richard Creswell (York and Preston) and Neil Harris (Millwall) always gave you a game. We would regularly kick lumps out of each other for 90 minutes and then shake hands at the end. Only occasionally did we try and kill each other in the tunnel after.
REV: And of all the strikers you lined up alongside, who was the best? Fortune-West, Akinbiyi, Onuora, Asaba, Taylor, Thomson, Butler, Shaw, King? There are so many to choose from…..
Onuora: A top player for Gillingham.
Guy: That’s a harsh question!! Asaba and Taylor were superb together, but then Akinbiyi and Onuora were also top top players for us. Thommo will always hold a special place for us due to his Wembley winner. We were blessed to have so many good front men.
REV: Who was your daftest team mate at the club?
Guy: John Hodge was hilarious when he arrived. One night he stayed at Hessy’s place while his wife was away. When Hess woke up in the morning, he found Hodgey cuddled up to him in bed wearing his wife’s night dress.
REV: Best story of your time at the club that isn’t common knowledge?
Has anyone seen my cigarette, I left it here somewhere?
Guy: We once had a game at Brentford, and the pitch wasn’t the best. Saundo (Mark Saunders) always enjoyed a crafty fag, so he lit up then stubbed it out on the centre spot. He later scored, ran back to the half way line, picked up his cigarette butt and played the next five minutes with it hanging out of his mouth.
REV: Wonderful times to be at the club, your tales have been brilliant to hear. Thanks for your time, and all the best for the future. Up the Gills.
Guy. Yes they were, and no worries.
You can follow Guy on Twitter @GuyButters