HE is the best player that Barnsley have produced in over a decade but that did not stop some fans booing Jacob Butterfield during the last home game against Blackpool.
There were more than a few grunts and groans from the stands when the man on the tannoy announced that he had been voted man of the match.
It was possibly nothing personal – maybe even a message to the sponsors for choosing any home player when the team had suffered a third consecutive defeat – but it was still a reaction that got up the young midfielder’s nose.
As is the trend in today’s modern world, Butterfield turned to the social networking site of Twitter to express disapproval.
Within hours of the final whistle, the 21-year-old had tweeted the following message: “Wonder if the boos I got when I got MOM is due to me not signing the new contract yet or some people knowing nothing about football.”
Ouch. Talk about hitting where it hurts.
Butterfield will be back on the Oakwell pitch today making his 100th appearance for the club and wearing the captain’s armband in the Yorkshire derby against Leeds United.
Just how the spat has affected his relationship with supporters will become clear, but Butterfield hopes they can understand his reasons for stalling on a new deal.
A host of clubs including Wolves and Everton are monitoring his form and, with bids likely in the January transfer window, he felt it made sense to keep his options open.
That does not mean he will definitely be leaving Oakwell next month – but, of course, it will still be a major shock if he stays at the club.
“I have always thought I was good enough to play at Premier League level and, given the opportunity, I think I could prove that,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
“I would love to play there with Barnsley FC but opportunities are few and far between and it’s such a short career.
“I am out of contract and there has been a lot of speculation about my future.
“It’s been a little difficult at times but I have had to learn to deal with it. To be honest, I don’t know where my future lies but staying at Barnsley is still a possibility.”
Barnsley supporters are used to losing their best players.
Former captain Jason Shackell moved to Derby County last summer, winger Adam Hammill joined Wolves last season, and, three years ago, midfielder Brian Howard jumped ship for rivals Sheffield United.
The grass is not always greener on the other side, however, and Butterfield will do well to avoid repeating the mistakes of those who have gone before.
“People say the last few players to leave Barnsley have not done as well as they would have liked but every player is different.
“The last thing I want to do is go somewhere and sit on the bench. I want to play football – I don’t particularly want to put my career on hold.
“In a lot of respects, it is out of my hands. If a bid is accepted, I have a choice to make. I will have to look at the club and make a decision. But I will be committing the next three or four years of my life so I have to make sure that everything is right.
“If they don’t want to accept bids and they want me to stay instead, I am more than happy to stay and see my future at Barnsley for a few more years,” he added.
“I really enjoy playing for the gaffer (Keith Hill). He has been brilliant for my career. I’m sure, if I do stay, he will continue to help me and my career would keep improving – there’s no doubt about that.”
Born in Bradford, Butterfield grew up in Fairweather Green and was snapped up by Manchester United’s scouting network as a schoolboy.
He spent seven years learning the game at United but was released at the age of 15 before joining Barnsley.
Despite making his first-team debut in a Carling Cup tie at Newcastle United four years ago, it was only towards the end of last season that he began to feel like a first-team regular.
Now, under Hill, he has finally come of age, winning a call-up to the England Under-21 squad as well as the standby list for next year’s British Olympic squad.
“The main difference has been someone believing in me and giving me an opportunity to show what I can do on a regular basis,” he reflected. “I asked previous managers to give me that opportunity but, for whatever reason, they haven’t done it. Thankfully, the gaffer has shown faith, I’ve responded to getting some responsibility, and my form has been good.”
The majority of Barnsley supporters do not want to lose Butterfield this season and those who jeered him on Boxing Day are firmly in the minority.
“I just hope the fans are not treating me differently now because of my contract situation,” he admitted. “For the most part, I think Barnsley fans enjoy watching me play and they are glad to have me at the club. They have been really good. It was a just a few negative shouts.
“What happened won’t affect my decision. No matter who you play for, every player will have fans and not everyone will think you are a brilliant player. I was over at the far end and, probably, if I had been in the middle of the pitch, I would not have heard anything.”
As for Twitter, Butterfield says he has no plans to say goodbye to his ‘followers’.
He added: “I think it gives fans the chance to speak to players now and again. It can be good for them to get a little bit more of an insight. But you have to be careful too. If players always put what they thought, the fans would read too much into it.”