Split loyalties for Butler
19th October 2013
Tom Butler could be forgiven for having split loyalties this afternoon.
Two of the former Republic of Ireland international's clubs go at it in the Barclays Premier League, both in need of a win for different views.
The Swans are seeking a first home win in the league since March, while Sunderland - under the new leadership of Gus Poyet - are without a victory this season.
Butler, who started his career with the Black Cats in the top flight, expects the club with whom he ended his career to come out on top at the Liberty.
And although he won't be at his former stomping ground this afternoon, he admits he's always torn when this fixture comes around.
"It's a difficult one for me because of my loyalties with both clubs," said the winger, who ended his career with Swansea through injury.
"Sunderland gave me a fantastic opportunity at such a young age. I was involved in a squad with some massive players at the time, so to be involved with them allowed me to pick up a lot of useful things.
"And my time at Swansea, of course, was a great time in my career.
"I had five-and-a-half years at the Liberty and the club made so much progress.
"From the moment Roberto (Martinez) was appointed manager, the players could sense something massive was happening for the club, and we were proved right."
Butler managed six goals in 50 appearances - his best goal return of his career - in Martinez's first full season in charge as the Swans romped home to the League One title.
After the Swans fell short of a Play-Off spot in the Championship under Martinez, they would again go agonisingly close during Paulo Sousa's sole season in charge.
Butler managed his final appearance for the Swans that season in a 3-1 home win over Barnsley, and although he was handed a new deal when Brendan Rodgers arrived, injuries eventually signalled the end of his career.
But he looks back fondly at a career which included two international caps along with helping Sunderland to the old Division One title in 1999.
"Playing international football is the biggest honour you can get in football, and it was amazing to play for my country," said Butler, who is now based in Sunderland but works for an Irish sports and events company.
"Then there was winning two league titles with Sunderland and then Swansea, and, to be part of the way Swansea changed their style was something that I am very pleased to have been a part of too."
It is that style, implemented following the instalment of Martinez as manager in 2007, that has been the pivotal part of Swansea's rise to the top.
And, as Butler points out, it is a style which ensures the opposition are always in for a tough afternoon - particularly at the Liberty.
"I can remember back in the League One days where the opposition would be looking at us after the game saying 'how the heck did you do that?'," he adds. "We played football back then and passed the ball about when other teams thought you had to be big, physical and strong and had to get the ball forward as quickly as possible.
"It was brave, I suppose, but we all wanted to be a part of what Roberto wanted us to do - it certainly paid off.
"It is a style which the club are now renowned for, and this is why so many clubs are trying to copy the Swansea style - they are a beacon for football clubs striving to reach the top.
"When they are at the Liberty, the opposition hate it because they know they will spend their afternoon chasing shadows. It is a very difficult style to combat, because if you press high then Swansea can really hurt you.
"It's something Sunderland will be very wary of, but they can't sit back because they need points too.
"They will have been disappointed only to have picked up a point so far, but I've noticed the players look a lot more settled since they changed manager.
"I expect them to pick up now, and it will be interesting to see where they end up come the end of the season, but looking at this squad I think they have the quality to get themselves out of trouble.
"As for Swansea, they have got more on their plate this season with the Europa League campaign.
"It's more demanding, but, again, I look at this squad and see the quality that is within it, so they shouldn't be troubled in the league by relegation.
"They will be fine, and to cope with the extra demands of Europe and finish safe of relegation would be another superb season.
"It will be interesting to see how far they go in Europe too. When they beat Valencia 3-0 at the Mestalla, a lot of people involved in footballing circles were surprised - but I told them to expect results and performances like that, because Swansea are capable of doing that to the best around."