Dundee United midfielder Calum Butcher feels like he’s missed a year of his career without supporters in stadiums – and admits he yearns for their return.
It’s been over a year since United played in front of a crowd, home or away, and Butcher insists it’s been a strange experience for the players.
With progress being made in the fight against the coronavirus, the Englishman is hopeful the Tangerines can get back to performing for a packed Tannadice next season.
‘I like to work off the fans, good and bad, and I think I thrive off it’
However, it doesn’t make the thought of playing Saturday’s New Firm derby against Aberdeen in an empty stadium any easier to stomach.
“Hopefully, things are back to normal soon and it’s more like football should be,” Butch said.
“It’s weird not having the build up to games, arriving at the stadium and not having fans in the car park or even after the games, not having family there, it’s such a different feeling.
“It’s strange so the quicker it gets back to normal the better for us all.
“There’s been times this year it’s taken me by surprise a little bit, how tough it is to get in the right place mentally without fans.
“I like the noise, the atmosphere and everything that goes with fans being in the stadiums, home and away.
“In the game you’re focused and don’t really think about it but the build up is tough.
“I think that can be why you see some strange results, you only have to look at Liverpool, would they be like that if the Kop was full? I don’t think so.
“I like to work off the fans, good and bad. I think I thrive off it. It gives you that little extra edge.
“Fans are the whole point of playing football, for me, especially for us getting promoted and playing in the big stadiums and having full houses at Tannadice for Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen.
“You feel like you’ve missed a year of your career.”
One eye on next season for the Tangerines
The Tangerines will have little beyond pride to play for when the Dons come to town this weekend, with their top-six dreams all but dashed headed into the final game before the split.
However, Butcher insists it’s still important they see out their campaign strongly and battle to finish as high up the Premiership standings as they can.
Seventh is now the target but Butch believes they already have one eye on next term and the new opportunities it will bring.
He added: “It’s a disappointment to be out of reach of the top six because we really felt we could’ve been in and around it going into the last game.
“It looks like it’s gone now but this season was always going to be difficult with the circumstances.
“To come up and be where we are is good, we just need to finish the season strong going into the next one.”