Butler ready to serve cause
Published 23/02/2000 | 00:11
By PHILIP QUINN PAUL BUTLER, Sunderland's man-mountain centre-half, yesterday shed light on his eligibility to play for the Republic of...
PAUL BUTLER, Sunderland's man-mountain centre-half, yesterday shed light on his eligibility to play for the Republic of Ireland and insisted he would prove his allegiance to the cause where it matters most on the pitch.
According to some reports, the craggy Manchester-born 27-year-old, who makes his senior debut against the Czech Republic at Lansdowne Road tonight, has no links to Ireland, apart from his Kildare-born wife, Caroline Fogarty.
But Butler, who could have applied for an Irish passport through his wife, has a stronger connection through his step-father, Clifford Butler. ``My step-father's father, Seamus, was born in Dublin and it's through him that I've qualified to play for Ireland,'' he explained. ``My wife came to Dublin and spent two weeks getting all the documentation I needed. Once the paperwork was in place, I applied for a passport.''
``I had it in time for the play-off game with Turkey last November when Mick (McCarthy) called me up but I was injured and had to pull out of the squad.''
BUTLER, who was born Paul Roberts but changed his name when his mother re-married, was approached by Bobby Gould to play for Wales but he pursued the Irish cause because McCarthy had shown interest first. McCarthy had been tipped off by Stan Ternent when Butler was at Bury.
``It was down to myself. Nobody put any pressure on me, not even Niall Quinn at Sunderland but I felt the Irish set-up was more exciting, with more players in the Premiership, and quality in the likes of Roy Keane, Robbie Keane and Niall,'' said Butler.
A player in the mould of McCarthy, Butler is ready to fight for a permanent place in the Irish set-up. ``Players retired after the European qualifiers, there are places up for grabs, and I'll be working as hard as I can to stay involved,'' he said.
``My wife's people were very upset when they read some of the stuff in the papers doubting my commitment much more so than me. But you'll see on the pitch tomorrow night just how committed I am. This is a big chance for me and, after getting to know the lads in the squad, I feel like I'm one of them already.''
* TONIGHT'S match is being shown live by both RTE and Sky Sports and there will also be full commentary on RTE Radio One.