MENTION Doncaster Rovers’ promotion quest to Andy Butler and you would expect things to become a little bit personal.
The Doncaster lad, who hails from the suburb of Balby close to the town centre, felt the hurt more than most when Rovers dropped into football’s basement for the first time in over a decade at the end of last season.
That searing pain, which still, by his own admission, felt acute through the summer, has served as a motivational tool for the stopper in the current campaign.
So far, it has been channelled impressively, not just by Butler, but also many of his team-mates, who have all closed ranks and helped to lead Rovers to a position of strength after the first few months of the campaign.
In terms of starting to vanquish memories of that sorry descent into freefall in the second half of 2015-16, a current position of second place is certainly aiding the healing process – ahead of this afternoon’s home game with Barnet.
Butler watched Rovers from the terraces at their former Belle Vue home when he was growing up.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “I have been watching Doncaster for most of my life and know what they are about and we do not want to be here in this division.
“We know we should be higher than we are. But I think everyone takes it personally as it is your job and you have to.
“It does not just mean more because I am from Doncaster. Everyone takes it personally and last year was really gut-wrenching when the whistle went against Crewe.
“Summer was difficult and it was hard to go over the whole of last season in your head as, at one stage, we looked pretty good.
“But things never worked out for us.
“You have to put it right, though, and the fans will hopefully start backing us and see what us and the gaffer are trying to create here.
“We will get back there, I am sure we will. It is about how you bounce back.”
As well as experiencing the soul-destroying feeling of relegation, Butler has also sampled the highs of promotion twice at Rovers’ neighbours Scunthorpe United, who won the League One title in 2006-07 and were runners-up to League Two winners Yeovil in 2004-05.
The centre-half, who turns 33 in November, certainly knows which feeling he prefers.
Butler, outstanding in Rovers’ keynote victory at Portsmouth last weekend, said: “There is no better feeling than when you get promotion.
“I remember the first time when we did it at Shrewsbury away and I think I was 20.
“It is a great feeling and such a buzz and you cannot beat it and it would be brilliant for the whole town and club for us to get back up there.”
After a tough run of games that has seen them take on the fancied trio of Portsmouth, Carlisle United and Luton Town, Rovers are now seeking to make hay with a run of three games out of four at the Keepmoat Stadium, starting today.
With key players coming back into the fray following pre-season injuries, competition levels are likely to intensify with manager Darren Ferguson’s side having every reason to believe that they possess the tools to build on an eye-catching start to the season.
Butler added: “With the injuries we had in pre-season, the way that the squad has bounced back with an average of just below two points a game has been good.
“I am sure that the squad will get bigger and better too.”