From West Ham to East Asia

Tim Holland speaks exclusively with Peter Butler, ex-Hammer and current manager of Malaysian club Persatuan Bola Sepak Daerah Kuala Terengganu on his time at the Boleyn, minibus driving in Halifax, the Sultan of Pahang and managing in Asia.

TH: You were part of the West Ham team that gained promotion to the Premiership in the 1992-93 season. How do you rate your time at the Boleyn Ground?

PB: I had a great time there; I loved my time wearing the claret and blue and met some of the most wonderful characters of my career within the club and outside of the club. East end people are something else – great characters. I loved them.

TH: Do you still keep in touch with any of the lads from your West Ham days?

PB: It’s difficult as I’m on the other side of the world but I sometimes send Tony Carr an email. I was always close to Alvin but not as much in recent years as I am based in Asia but my family is back in West Yorkshire now so I’m slowly edging back.

TH: What’s your best memory of your time at the Boleyn Ground?

PB: I have many great memories from Upton Park. Playing under the lights there was special, and the fans were unreal and they never ceased to amaze me. The place is a bit special and will always be a wonderful experience for me in so many ways.

TH: Who has been the best player you played with and against?

PB: There are so many good players I played against including Gazza and many others. I enjoyed playing alongside Alvin Martin – he was a great character and professional. Both Dicksy & Bish were quality performers on and off the pitch!! I keep in touch with Dicksy and I see he is now coaching and progressing with his licenses. He is doing some good stuff with junior teams in the Essex region — I wish him well, great character and player.

TH: Following your retirement you went from working at Halifax Town FC to Academy Director in Australia. How did that come about?

PB: I was first team coach, assistant manager, reserve team coach, and even mini bus driver at Halifax! It was a great experience but I was in Australia watching a golf tournament and had fixed up some meetings and the Sorrento job came about. After leaving Halifax, I could have sat on my arse and waited for the next job but that’s not me so I took the offer. I returned to Australia and took my family and we had a good time there, but it was not for me, I enjoyed it but I needed a bigger challenge.

TH: You then moved from Australia to Malaysia. Was that a culture shock at first?

PB: I was offered the technical director role/ first team coach in Sabah East Malaysia and I absolutely loved it. It’s a fantastic place with fantastic people. I took that club from crowds of 2,000 to 30,000 in one season! We had a great journey and ended up at Bukit Jalil National Stadium in a 90,000 sell out Malaysia Cup final. It was such a turnaround for the club. Unfortunately there were some dodgy things happening there the following season so I resigned and had a break — until I went to Singapore.

TH: You’ve had a varied coaching career in Asia — starting in Malaysia before moving on to Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and now back to Malaysia. What is it about Asia and Asian football that keeps you coming back?

PB: There’s exciting, big crowds and it’s a great challenge in Asia but mixed with it the fact that it’s still a developing football nation. I love coaching and making a difference and I been fortunate enough to have had a great run. In my time I’ve worked for tycoons, politicians, heads of state, and had my ups and downs because I believe in doing it the right way. I still keep getting offered jobs though so I must be doing something right!

TH: How does management differ between Asia and England? Are there different management techniques?

PB: Well there is the language barrier but I learnt to speak Bahasa and coach in it. The manager’s role here is more of an admin role, the head coach role is the main job to have. Of course there are different management techniques but it’s how you handle situations here. You have to understand people don’t like confrontation. I have learnt when and when not to stand your ground, there are battles you can win and ones you cannot here in Asian Football.

TH: What’s been your proudest achievement as a coach?

PB: I build young teams, get them playing good football and doing it the right way. I’ve had promotions and got to finals here with young teams in front of 90,000 people but I’m yet to win one. I don’t take crap and select players forced upon me. I do it my way and won’t tolerate interference. I can stand tall and stick to my principles of training and going about the game in the right way.

TH: Do you harbour intentions to move back into coaching in the English leagues or move to the wealthy Middle East leagues?

PB: Middle East – yes, UK – unsure. English football is a mates club, sad but true. I could have been a manager there and still could be if I was willing to ride on the coat tails of another manager and jump on the merry go round. However I have carved out a career for myself in Asia. I would love to coach / manage back home but I am not in with the right people or right crowd but have more experience than most and got all my licenses. Never say never though and I love home and miss it. I will return home to live there at some stage, once a Yorkshire lad always a Yorkshire lad and all that!

TH: Do you still keep an eye for the West Ham scores? Any predictions for West Ham this season?

PB: I always look for results and wish them well. I think they will be ok this season. They will be solid and hard to beat but it may not be pretty. I doubt West ham fans care as long as they survive in the Premier League this. Relegation is not an option – they have to stay in it.

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