Azkals name ex-England World Cup skipper as new head coach
Terry Butcher, a tough, hard-nosed defender during his international career for England, who embarked on a coaching career that took him to Scotland and Australia, has been appointed coach of the Philippine national team that is set to see action in the AFC Asian Cup for the first time next year.
The 59-year-old Butcher’s role with the Azkals will be announced on Thursday night along with the appointment of former Irish coach Scott Cooper as senior football adviser of the national team as Azkals manager Dan Palami took the lead in strengthening the back room staff in preparation for major tournaments in the next seven months.
Butcher, who played 77 matches for England in a 10-year span that included three World Cup tournaments, last coached for English League Two side Newport County three years ago. He also served as assistant coach to the Scottish National team.
Although he only moved to Asia five years ago after coaching English side Leicester’s youth team, Cooper has already gained plenty of experience, having steered Thailand League powerhouse Buriram United to the league title in his first season and the knockout phase of the prestigious AFC Champions League.
Among the highlights of Cooper’s stint in Thailand was leading Ubon UMT United to back-to-back promotion from the third division to the top-flight from 2015 to 2017.
“I see this as a big challenge,” said Butcher in a video call from Moscow, Russia, where is currently based, covering the World Cup for BBC. “I see a lot of work ahead of us. But it will be fun work. It will be exciting work.”
Butcher acknowledged the efforts of former Azkals coach Thomas Dooley and the players for reaching the Asian Cup and achieving the country’s highest FIFA ranking.
“I have to say a big thank you to Thomas Dooley for getting the Azkals that far and for improving the team and believing in the team,” he said. “I think with another team, behind the team, these are exciting times for the Philippines.”
Sources said Cooper will play an active role in assisting Butcher as the England legend treads unchartered territory in Asian football.
Goalkeeping coach Steve Marcells and Chris Greatwich, who assisted Dooley in the match against Tajikistan last March, complete the Azkals’ brain trust.
Butcher said his reign will be “friendly and instructive”, pointing out that he wants players to enjoy representing the country.
“Playing for the country should be an honor and a privilege and a pleasure,” said Butcher.
“But I want to be challenged. The players have to be challenged. I’m not coming there for a holiday and enjoy the weather. There’s a whole country that your responsibility for. I want to work hard for the team and strive to be the best. There’s no point of going there if you don’t want to be successful. With success comes pressure so we can’t rest on our laurels. There’s no reason why we can’t get high as we possibly can.”
Butcher said he will be out to erase the misconception that English coaches only play direct, long-ball football.
“We want to win games with a bit of style, with a bit of finesse,” said Butcher, who visited Manila in 2016 to watch the AFF Suzuki Cup.
“Let’s make it fun. Let’s make people love watching good football. That’s our aim and our ambition.”