In Class of ’92

Nicky Butt was a regular in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England squads. He shone in the 2002 World Cup when he was even described by Pele as the tournament’s best player, writes Andy Hampson.

Nicky Butt is a solid midfielder who graduated from Manchester United’s famed youth system through to the successful first team and then the England national side. He moved to Newcastle in 2004.

Butt, a Manchester native, was a member of the famed ‘Class of 92’ which won the English FA Youth Cup. It was a side laden with future internationals in Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Keith Gillespie a nd Robbie Savage.

He made his first-team debut in November 1992 but he could not command a regular place until the departure of Paul Ince in 1995. The likes of Roy Keane, Scholes and Beckham were to prove bigger stars over the years but Butt became a firm fixture for his tenacity and reliability. He was a fairly regular performer and helped United to Champions League success during their remarkable treble-winning 1998-99 season and found favour under England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson in the early years of the 21st century.

He was one of England’s better players during the 2002 World Cup and continued to claim titles with United. The Barclays English Premier League winner’s medal he claimed in 2003 was his sixth with the club. He was also a member of the FA Cup winning team thrice.

Eventually, he began to slip down the pecking order as competition increased and injuries hampered his efforts to hold down a place at Old Trafford. He requested a transfer in January 2004 but it was not until the following summer that he decided to follow through his conviction to move on. Newcastle snapped him up in a GBP2.5 million deal and the move proved an initial success as he broke back into the England squad. Injury, however, again affected his form and Newcastle sent him out on a season-long loan to Birmingham in 2005. He proved one of City’s more consistent performers but could not prevent their relegation from the Premier League. He returned to Newcastle and finished the 2006-07 season strongly to suggest he does have a future at St. James’ Park under new manager Sam Allardyce.

On the international front, Butt was a regular in Eriksson’s England squads. He shone in the 2002 World Cup when he was even described by Pele as the tournament’s best player. He was selected for Euro 2004 but did not play due to injury.

Butt and his partner Shelley have a daughter, Jersey, who was born around the time the player was first considering leaving Manchester United.

Because of the upheaval it would have caused his family, Butt decided against pursuing a move in January 2004 but made a career decision later that year that involved relocation.

Butt’s stint at Birmingham is best remembered for a remarkable bust-up with manager Steve Bruce, a former team-mate at Manchester United.

Butt stormed out of the team’s hotel prior to a match at West Ham after learning that Bruce had decided to select his son Alex Bruce, normally a defender, in midfield ahead of him.

He was fined two weeks’ wages, thought to be around GBP80,000, over the incident. Not necessarily known for his love of cars, Butt nevertheless possesses some fine motors. A recent magazine article revealed a BMW X5, Range Rover Sport 4.4 V8 HSE and a Bentley Continental GT. Their combined value is around GBP222,000.

FACTFILE Name: Nicky Butt Position: Midfielder Club: Newcastle DOB: 21/01/1975 England caps: 39 England goals: 0 England debut: v Mexico, March 1997 Moment to remember

Butt is not a regular goal scorer, but he has netted at important times. In December 1999, Manchester United were 2-0 down at Sunderland within 15 minutes. Keane instigated the comeback and Butt ensured a share of the points when he grabbed a controversial equaliser with a deflected shot four minutes from time. Sunderland had claimed that United should not have been awarded the free-kick which led to the goal.

Moment to forget

Manchester United’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal in September 1998 was a forgettable day for both the club and Butt, who was sent off for the second time in successive matches. Having been dismissed in a Champions League encounter with Barcelona just four days earlier, Butt was given the marching orders at Highbury for bringing down Patrick Vieira.

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