Calum Butcher never doubted he could do a job for Dundee United despite becoming something of a forgotten man at Tannadice.
Butcher started for the Premiership leaders in their 3-0 win over St Mirren on Saturday, with the defender’s selection in midfield raising more than a few eyebrows.
However, the Englishman fully justified manager Jackie McNamara’s decision to give him his first game since the loss to Ross County in Dingwall on January 18.
The route back to favour has been a slow and somewhat traditional one for Butcher, with hard-working performances in the development team catching the eye of his boss.
Patrolling the centre of the park alongside youngster Scott Smith for the under-20s, he did enough to persuade McNamara to give him a go.
Now he is hoping to stay in the side for tonight’s clash against managerless Motherwell at Fir Park as the Tangerines try to make it their best start to a league campaign since the 1980s.
Butcher said: “I have had to wait patiently and it’s been frustrating for me but to finally get back into the team feels really good.
“The manager comes to all the development games and it’s nice to think that he saw something in me that made him put me in the midfield on Saturday.
“In fact, I think all the lads who have come through to the first team have done so on the back of good performances for the under-20s.
“You can never doubt yourself and I have always believed I can play here. I want to play for United and be part of this club.
“So I wasn’t going to lie down and die. I just worked as hard as I could. As long as the manager is going to be fair with me then I have a good chance.
“I want to play as many games as I can and train as hard as possible and see where it takes me.”
As for the positional move, the former Tottenham Hotspur man revealed he wants to now stay where he is.
“I really want to play in midfield,” he said. “You have to be good on the ball and. really, have every attribute to play there these days.
“I have played midfield before in my career down south and I enjoy it there.
“That’s where I have chosen to play now. I feel as though I have more to offer in that position.”
Butcher was one of those to benefit from a bold selection strategy that has seen McNamara use 20 players over the last three games against Inverness Caley Thistle, Hibs in the League Cup and then St Mirren.
The player added: “It shows how good our squad is. When young players come in and take their chance in the team it can only be a good thing,
“There are so many players who can come in and fill in different positions. It has to be good for everybody.”
McNamara, who has admitted tonight’s selection will be the most challenging of his time at Tannadice, has a slight doubt over striker Nadir Ciftci (hamstring) but the Turk is expected to be OK.
Mario Bilate is ruled out, though, as the club await news of the scan done on the Russian-born Dutchman’s hamstring.
McNamara said: “I have had a few selections in my head. It is not just picking the starting 11 that has given me problems, it is choosing who is on the bench as well.
“Mind you, it’s a good problem for me to have and I am not complaining. The players know they have to perform because others who have maybe not had as much of a chance are waiting to take their jerseys.”
He is looking for United to consolidate their position at the top going into the international break, something they failed to do on their previous Friday night match five weeks ago when they lost 2-0 on a miserable evening in Ayrshire.
“When we went down to Kilmarnock for our last Friday game it was really disappointing so we want to get it right this time,” he added.
“We have a chance to perform well and get a bit of breathing space at the top at least until the others play.
“After Saturday, it felt better because I had seen my players move the ball better and have more energy. So it would be nice to go into the international break without any regrets.”