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Jul 13, 2006

Butcher gets to work on A-League side

Terry Butcher has inherited a championship team. But the new Sydney FC coach is determined to start his A-League tenure from scratch.

After coaching via correspondence from the World Cup in Germany the past month, the former England international - immortalised as a player when photographed bandaged and bloodstained after England's 1989 World Cup qualifier against Sweden - grabbed the reins of the inaugural A-League champions this week.

He is steadily making progress through the pile of DVDs supplied by club chairman Walter Bugno of Sydney's successful 2005-06 campaign under German Pierre Littbarski.

But any opinions he may have garnered from those performances will be usurped this Saturday night during his first game in charge against Queensland Roar in the club's pre-season cup opener on the Gold Coast.

"The slate is clean. The canvas is bare, and that's great," said Butcher.

"Hopefully we'll paint a very good picture this season.

"Last year is last year, I'm looking at what they can do this year.

"And it starts with the game this weekend, and the games after that in the pre-season cup. We want to build a team, build a spirit and build a way that we want to play for the (club's A-League opener against Central Coast) on the 27th of August."

Despite scaling heights during an impressive playing career - which included a UEFA Cup triumph with Ipswich Town in 1981, three Scottish League crowns and 77 international appearances spread over three World Cups - Butcher has had an inconsistent record as a coach.

His time as player-manager at Coventry City and Sunderland during the early 1990s were largely ill-fated, although his most recent four-year stint with mid-size club Motherwell - featuring a Scottish League Cup final appearance in 2005 - has shown far more promise.

Sydney and the A-League presents a far different challenge - not the least getting used to the constraints of a salary cap, a reduced playing squad of just 20 players, and no development or under-21 squad.

Yet while he has spent little more than a month in the country since his appointment, Butcher has already attained one attribute absolutely essential to coaching a top-tier soccer side in Australia - spruiking the sport.

"You look at the World Cup, now that's over, it's a chance to really focus on the A-League and get our own act together," he said.

"Hopefully we can attract the public that has been turned on by the World Cup, to come here and watch in Sydney.

"I'm excited to be part of the history here, the second year of the A-League.

"And with the Socceroos doing so well in the World Cup, everyone is getting a fix on soccer, or football, I think everyone now is very much interested in what's going to happen now. The possibilities are endless."

Butcher's own expectations at the standard of the A-League are particularly high, putting it almost on par with the Scottish Premier League.

"I see it as being very much the same (as the SPL), if not better," Butcher said.

"I'm not sure yet, I'll have to see. But I think if you look at (English second tier league) The championship, some of the players here could comfortably play in that in the right circumstances.

"I see no reason why we can't have a good season in terms of players improving that quality.

"There are good quality players here. And good honesty as well. Hopefully we won't be seeing too many players falling about needlessly as we did in the World Cup."

Sydney has made minimal changes to its championship-winning squad for this season, and with the additions of promising attackers Alex Brosque (from Queensland Roar) and Jeremy Brockie (New Zealand Knights), plus retention of star Dwight Yorke, may actually boast an improved list.

No title is won on paper though.

And Butcher has already made sure to guard against any complacency, promising to put his players through a gruelling nine-session-a-week training course during the pre-season campaign, while calling all positions up for grabs.

"Pierre did very well last season, but he had his own opinions about players... I may have different opinions," Butcher said.

"Every player is playing for a position, every player knows he's got to impress me and you can see that in the players' reactions at training.

"But we've not won or lost any matches yet, so its easy for me at this precise moment.

"We're all looking forward to the season ... so bring it on, let's go and enjoy it."

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