As the January transfer window approaches, Dundee United may have already made their best winter signing in tying Calum Butcher down to a new deal.
Butcher last week signed a contract extension to keep him at Tannadice until 2023 after an impressive start to the season.
In fact, the 28-year-old midfield enforcer has, arguably, been the Tangerines’ most-consistent performer of 2019 after he returned to the club for a second spell in January.
In his 33 appearances since, Butcher has played a key role in turning the Terrors from nearly men to a dominant force in the Championship title race.
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From combative displays in the heart of the midfield, to filling in at centre-half and even chipping in with four goals, Butcher is as important to Robbie Neilson’s men as the likes of Lawrence Shankland, Paul McMullan and Nicky Clark.
Butcher may not grab the headlines in the same way as the aforementioned players but he, alongside the likes of Benjamin Siegrist, Mark Reynolds and Mark Connolly, form a solid and experienced spine United have built from.
His leadership and presence has been stressed multiple times by boss Robbie, sporting director Tony Asghar and his fellow players since his return.
And it certainly represents a sea change from Butcher’s first spell at the club.
Over the course of two seasons from 2013-15, he was only able to make 30 appearances, scoring once, as he struggled to settle in Jackie McNamara’s team for a variety of reasons.
Originally fielded as a centre-back, Butcher didn’t find his best form until moved into midfield, where he is now thriving.
A serious foot injury and suspensions played their part, too, with Butch out of action for most of 2014.
His time at the club came to an end in the summer of 2015 as he turned down a new deal, stating he was unhappy with the length of the contract offered.
With his future now ensured for the next three-and-a-half years, Butcher will be delighted to know he will get to spend his peak years at Tannadice.
He cemented his place as a favourite with the United fans with two goals in the 6-2 derby win over city rivals Dundee at Tannadice back in August (see video below).
After his new deal was announced, Butcher said: “I am delighted to sign the contract. United is a great place to be right now.
“I can see something great happening here, and the gaffer committing his future to the club was a huge factor in convincing me to continue my career here.
“He has taken us to another level, and that will continue. I want to be part of that.”
Sporting director Tony Asghar said: “Extending Calum’s contract is another important step in the sustainability and continued growth of the club.
“Having players like Calum commit to the club shows the culture and feelgood factor around the squad.
“He is a passionate player and our fans like that. As importantly for me, he is the right type of player to have in the dressing-room and next to you on the park.”
He may be unfashionable and somewhat of a dying breed but that Butcher is a key man for United now is undeniable.
His return may not have sparked too many imaginations given his previous tricky spell at the club.
However, his battling displays as a near ever-present and passion for the club have won hearts and minds among the faithful Arabs and beyond.
They, as well as anyone else, will now know if Dundee United are to finally win the Championship and return to the top flight at the fourth time of asking, Butcher is certainly going to play a big part in it.