Butler will probably need two very strong team performances at Blackpool tonight and Peterborough United on Sunday for that to happen after seeing his side’s League One play-off hopes collapse, but a youthful team have shown more of what they are capable of in the past two matches – a draw at promoted Peterborough United and a win at relegated Rochdale – now the pressure is off.
As well as that, they have had 37-year-old centre-back Butler back on the field after putting his boots away to concentrate on management. Despite that, he does not think combining playing and managing is feasible in the long term.
As player-manager, Butler’s record is played five, won two, lost two, compared to played 11, won two, lost seven from the technical area.
“I think you can only do it for a short spell,” he said of the player-manager job. “The pictures you see aren’t the same as on the sideline. The staff around you can see the game as a whole whereas as a centre-half I can only see what’s in front of me.
“I believe if you have the (manager’s) role you have to take it full-time.
“You can do it for a short period but I think it impacts both playing and managing. But I’ve got broad shoulders, I’m doing it right now and I’m enjoying it. I wouldn’t change it for the world, I love the team-talks before the game, I love doing the analysis and I love playing.
“Starting the season out of contract, out of a job, to where I am now, I wouldn’t change it for the world so I’d like to thank everyone at Doncaster Rovers for this experience.”
Butler’s predecessor Darren Moore built a squad on youngsters loaned from the top two divisions and whilst their talent shone through in the first half of the season, perhaps their inexperience has in the second, especially after captain Ben Whiteman was sold to Preston North End. Doncaster’s downturn in form pre-dated Butler’s appointment.
“We’re a young squad that haven’t had this situation before, the pressure of a play-off push, and we’re learning,” stressed Butler.
“Taylor Richards has scored 11 goals this season, which is brilliant. He’d only played 12 (first-team) games (before he joined Doncaster), now he’s played 47. It shows you the demands we put on younger players to perform.
“It’s been a big learning curve and a tough season because of the games and the congestion of fixtures. There’s not been time to recover properly and I think you can see a bit of tiredness and fatigue creeping in. I just think because of the youthful make-up of our squad it’s impacted us towards the end of the season.
“(Chief executive) Gavin Baldwin said the loan players we bring in have to be the special players you can’t really afford (as permanent signings) budget-wise. It’s just making sure the squad around them lasts the full season.
“But performance-wise it wasn’t good enough (before the last two matches), there wasn’t enough hard running or penetrating passes. We became predictable and lethargic in our performances.
“(The last two matches) have been really good. I want us to finish the season with some positive performances to show people we can still mix it with the best teams in the league because Blackpool and Peterborough are as tough as they come.”
Butler is not the only one whose future is on the line and winger Jason Lokilo has found form at a good time in the last two matches with his contract about to expire.
“If Jason can continue (like this) for the last two games that all you can ask for,” said Butler, who has an unchanged group of players to pick from. “The challenge for Jason is to be consistent. We know he’s got that raw ability.
“Jason’s one of the quickest players off the mark at the club, he twists and turns really quickly, sometimes it’s just getting him in those positions. He works ever so hard offensively and defensively. If he brings it all together in one game he’s a great player.
“It’s just unlocking Jason’s full potential. He’s still young and he’s still learning so that’s what we’ve got to be mindful of and be wary he will have performances which do dip and others which are really good. Against Peterborough second half he was very good, first half against Rochdale he caused their wing-back no end of problems by finding pockets of space.”
Last six games: Blackpool WWLLWD; Doncaster Rovers WDLLWL
Referee: R Lewis (Shropshire)
Last time: Blackpool 1 Doncaster Rovers 1, March 12, 2019, League One.
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