Terry Butcher, *that* photo & a six-month supply of washing powder


It remains one of the most iconic moments captured in the Three Lions photo archive.

It is September 6th, 1989, and Terry Butcher is celebrating a hard-earned point after a goalless World Cup qualifier away at Sweden. It proved crucial in England making the cut for Italia 90 the following year.

The famous photo shows Butcher ‘butchered’. A first-half clash of heads with Swedish striker Johnny Ekstrom left the defender bleeding heavily. After receiving treatment and being bandaged up, Butcher famously battled on. By the end of the game his white England shirt was covered in claret; the 77-cap legend literally bleeding for the cause.

It goes without saying that there is no chance of this happening today. And rightly so. In the modern game Butcher would receive superior medical treatment and would have to change his shirt before returning to the pitch. But this was a different era.

Blood gushing from your head at an alarming rate? Get back out there and give as good as you got, Terry.

The incident helped cement the former Ipswich Town player into English football folklore, and he remains acutely aware of it. “If I had image rights to that picture, I’d probably be a millionaire by now!” he told the BBC in 2015.

Butcher, the England skipper that night in the absence of Bryan Robson, faced a Sweden side containing some familiar names. The likes of Roland Nilsson, Anders Limpar and Klas Ingesson would all grace the Premier League in the years to follow.

After Butcher’s injury Sweden continued to hoist long balls towards their forwards, forcing the 6’4” defender into making a number of headed clearances, each time reopening the deep cut in his forehead.

At half-time Butcher was whizzed into the medical room and John Crane, the England and Arsenal doctor, attempted to stitch him up.

It wasn’t an easy task though, as Butcher recalled when talking to the Daily Express a couple of years ago: “The trouble was there was so much blood, he found it hard to see what he was doing. He had only managed to get five stitches in place when the whistle went and it was time to go back again. There was still an inch of the wound unstitched.”

“Bobby Robson just told me to ‘get on with it’. At the end of the game he told the press I’d had 22 stitches, but then he always liked to exaggerate!”

Butcher was playing his club football with Glasgow Rangers at the time and had been due to attend a function upon his return to Scotland. However, the after effects of his injury had left him feeling faint, so he went home and slept from Friday afternoon until Saturday morning.

There was one bonus though, with detergent company Radion approaching him to do some advertising for them. His reward? A six-month supply of washing powder.

Whenever players receive a head knock now the commentator will invariably mention ‘doing a Butcher’. There were parallels drawn when Paul Ince—on another famous night for the Three Lions—played on against Italy sporting a blood-stained shirt to secure England’s passage to the 1998 World Cup.

Displays of courage, commitment and raw emotion will always evoke a strong response from supporters. Think of the reaction to Stuart Pearce after scoring *that* penalty against Spain or Gazza’s tears.

Butcher will always be fondly remembered for this courageous showing, something he seems at ease with.

“I’ve been called the hardest Englishman ever, which is quite flattering,” he told The Guardian in 2015, “and I suppose that it is nice in a way that there is an image of me that people remember. And it sums me up well. That’s me to a ‘T’ that is, bloody but unbowed.”

By Adam Cattell

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