Dundee United midfield enforcer Calum Butcher has thanked boss Robbie Neilson for giving him the chance of a new start at Tannadice.
Butcher was named the SPFL’s Championship Player of the Month for December on Tuesday, with Robbie winning the manager prize.
It is a stark change in fortunes for the 28-year-old, who this time last year found himself on the transfer list at English League Two side Mansfield before United swooped to offer him a second spell at the club.
He grabbed it with both hands and was one of the Tangerines’ best performers over the course of 2019, with his dominant, battling performances earning him a new contract and the December award as United sit 14 points clear at the top of the table.
Now the Englishman is keen to repay the faith shown in him, after Robbie said he should have won more awards for his displays.
“That’s really nice to hear,” Butcher said. “I really wasn’t enjoying my football before I came back here.
“It was tough for me at Mansfield and I am just really thankful to the gaffer for giving me the opportunity of a new start.
“I have taken this chance with both hands. Looking back at that time, I made the wrong decision at that stage in my career to go there.
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“You turn up at a club and it just doesn’t feel right. That was the case for me from the first day I got there, really.
“I was also doing quite a bit of travelling at the time. I just couldn’t settle and my football took a hit because of that.
“I am just grateful now that I’ve got it up and running again. When the opportunity arose to come back to United and I spoke to the manager, it just felt right from the start.
“Since I have come back to United the fans have been great and so has the manager.
“I can’t really complain about anything. I have really enjoyed every minute of it.
“The gaffer has been fantastic for me and my career. You know what you are getting from him and you know the demands he makes of you. We’ve got on great right from the start.
“He is a manager who makes you want to go out there and run through a brick wall for him.
“That is the kind of boss I like to play for.”
The challenge now for Butcher is to help United return to the Premiership after enjoying a spell of top-flight football at the club for two seasons from 2013.
And he feels the work they have done since last January has them in the perfect position to do so as they travel to take on Partick at Firhill on Saturday.
“A lot has changed,” he added.
“I think the mentality in the dressing-room is the main thing because there is a real belief now.
“Maybe that wasn’t always the case and the club struggled over the years. Now there is a real winning culture at the club and a togetherness that I don’t think had been there for a while.
“I think that has been apparent during games when we have been going through a tough period.
“Throughout the season, there have been challenging times when we have had to stick together.
“I think we have done that.
“We are also all learning and willing to take in information from the gaffer and the coaches.
“I think that is a big thing when you want to keep improving.
“There is a real drive at the club and everyone, not just the players, is pulling in a direction to get Dundee United back to the Premiership.
“We’ve got to keep going, we’ve got some big games coming up. We might have a blip, you never know because football can change very quickly and we’ve got to stick together.”