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Monday, 7 November 2011

The Butterfield Effect

It doesn't take the most inquisitive of Barnsley fans to know that Jacob Butterfield has been attracting a lot of media attention recently. In what will be seen in the eyes of many as a fantastic season so far for the youngster, the former Manchester United trainee has seen himself become a regular in Keith Hill's side, as well as being appointed as the club's youngest ever captain. And last week, seeing a call up to Stuart Pearce's England U21 set up.

But of course none of this has occurred on the quiet, and the midfielder has attracted the attention of a string of championship and premier league clubs, posing the question to Reds fans, how long can we hold on to Jacob Butterfield?

The Potential
Those in the know at Oakwell touted the youngster to really push on this season following an ok previous campaign. The midfielder showed glimpses of brilliance last term, but failed to find a comfortable position within the four man midfield and would often go missing in games, often being shoved out wide to compensate for injuries.

After scoring 2 goals and stinging the gloves of many a keeper, it was clear for many to see that Butterfield could potentially be a big part of the team in the forthcoming season, providing that he found consistent form.

A Hill To Climb
After seldom featuring in pre-season, it became unclear as to what the future held for Jacob at Oakwell, with Reuben Noble-Lazarus and Danny Rose gaining the proverbial ‘exciting youngster’ badges and regularly featuring in the warm up games. However, come the start of the season Jacob did indeed break into Keith Hill’s plans, perhaps with an injury to Noble-Lazarus to thank. And following a successive sequence of fine performances, it seemed that Butterfield was in the side to stay.

The Reds started the season slowly however, therefore causing the manager to dip into the loan market, only to bring in a serious threat to Butterfield’s position in central midfield, with Danny Drinkwater arriving from Manchester United. The arrival caused a dilemma for Hill, with midfield balance the rationale behind the signing, since Miles Addison and David Perkins had provided the defensive outlet, but the Reds had failed to find the creativity required to score goals, with the side only scoring 2 prior to the signing of Drinkwater.

A string of injuries was to make Hill’s mind up for him though, with the manager opting to keep Butterfield in the midfield, whilst also bringing in his new loan signing, which subsequently saw a change in formation.

Making Sacrifices
It had quickly become apparent to Hill that by playing Butterfield he would be advantageous in the creativity that the youngster provided, but would have to compensate for the lack of defensive quality and effort. Hill was searching for balance, and stumbled upon a dilemma of how the team could be more creative, yet be solid defensively.

The answer it seems lay in the 4-2-3-1 formation. This allowed Butterfield to be free of the traditional responsibilities of a midfielder, with the chance to concentrate on his creativity and goal getting, with Perkins and Drinkwater providing the bread-and-butter, knitty gritty midfield work. Initially this proved successful, with a flurry of impressive strikes against Leicester, Birmingham, Derby and Burnley.

However, it is now 4 games since Butterfield has scored and many fans have wondered if the recent speculation has been getting to the player.

The Risk
It appears that for the forseeable future Keith Hill will be faced with another dilemma. Does he dare to drop his captain upon he has heaped so much praise, or does he stick with the man knowing that he is capable of moments of magic?

As pundits will analyse, teams in good form can afford all the luxuries in the world, however now the Reds have hit an inconsistent spell with only 1 win in 4, can the team afford a player who at times can be a passenger?

Hill then faces the problem of replacing Jacob, both in the short and long term. If Hill decides to drop Butterfield, how does this affect future preparation, who steps into the void, and what formation do we play?

If Butterfield regains his form, how do we go about keeping him, and if we’re destined to lose him, who do we buy to replace him, and how much cash do we demand? Of course there is also the player’s contract to take into consideration, which runs out in the summer. Butterfield has been offered new terms, however should he decline to sign and leave in the summer, what financial benefit will the Reds see for taking a chance on a player who could have been so close to leaving the game altogether?

The Replacements
Assuming Butterfield does go, Hill no doubt will have to find a suitable replacement. With the manager being a notorious wheeler dealer, will he opt to spend the entire fee on an established player, or will he gamble on yet more rough diamonds from the lower leagues?

The answer would appear obvious, however who might Reds fans expect to fill the void? I’ve compiled who I might like to see below, however, who would you chose?

Johnnie Jackson - Perhaps at the top end of any budget the sale would free up, the 29 year old is captain of League 1 leaders Charlton and has a proven record of scoring goals. Jackson has made nearly 50 appearances for the Addicks after joining on a free from Notts County, scoring 20 goals in total, including 7 this season, a fantastic return for any midfielder to rival even some strikers’ records.

Anthony Wordsworth - Perhaps a more affordable choice is this 22 year old from Colchester. Wordsworth also has 7 goals this season, with an average goal ratio of 1 in 5, actually beating Butterfield’s ratio of 1 in 11. Wordsworth does operate more on the wing, however would this free up more space in the Reds’ struggling attack?

Dean Cox - Leyton Orient have seen a resurgence of late and might have this man to thank for it. Cox can operate as both a winger and an attacking midfielder and the 24 year old has 6 goals for the season. The former Brighton man has been a stalwart in Russell Slade’s Orient side, with 62 appearances in just over a year.

Danny Drinkwater - Although technically already at Oakwell, might Butterfield’s signing free up the necessary funds to keep Drinkwater and allow him more freedom going forward? Drinkwater has been a fan’s favourite at Oakwell this season, and the Manchester United loanee could be a sign that the solution might be right under our noses.

No replacement - After giving the player a chance following his release from Manchester United, does Butterfield owe it to the club and the fans to sign a new deal? Even if he does intend to go, a deal is on the table and Butterfield has the chance to protect a club who have given him a chance to shine in football.

Should a premiership club come in for him, it’s highly unlikely that the Reds would stand in his way, so what has he got to lose by signing a new deal? If he signs, not only can the club command a larger fee, but he could also benefit in the long term by having more choice in any potential move rather than being palmed off to the highest bidder in January.

Butterfield also need only look at his former teammates such as Adam Hammill, Daniel Bogdanovic and Brian Howard to see how dream moves can quickly turn into nightmares. By spending an extra 6 months at least at Oakwell, Butterfield could be a key part of a Premiership manager’s plans in the summer, whereas a January move might only earn him a spot on the bench and a stalled career to boot.

Only one thing can be certain in this whole saga. Some big decisions are about to be made.

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2 comments:

Iain J said...

An excellent read! Some good replacements mentioned, but I hope he remembers the likes of Hammill, Boggy, Howard, Hignett etc!

Michael Roach said...

Thanks for the comment Iain. Which replacement would you most like to see?

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