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George Burley <-auth Gary Ralston auth-> Craig Thomson
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By Gary Ralston

OLD pals George Burley and Terry Butcher clash head to head today for the first time in their managerial careers.

But their former Ipswich teammate Mick Mills has revealed the confrontation might have had to wait another two weeks - until Rangers visit Tynecastle Mills is delighted the pair, who helped bring so much glory to Portman Road in the late 1970s and 80s, are making their mark in management, Butcher with Motherwell and Burley at Hearts.

The former England full-back, who won 42caps, admits Burley's rise to the top has taken him by surprise.

And he revealed Butcher knocked back an approach to join Walter Smith at Rangers because he reckoned he had a bigger job at Coventry.

Mills on the left and Burley on the right provided a perfect balance in the defence of an Ipswich side that never finished outside the top five of England's top flight between 1978 and 1982 Butcher and Russell Osman emerged to replace Alan Hunter and Kevin Beattie in the heart of defence.

Mills was the first person Butcher turned to when he was made player-boss at Coventry after his acrimonious departure from Rangers in 1990, appointing him as his No.2.

But Mills, now a successful agent, revealed his mate was offered a quick return to Ibrox.

He said: "I spent a year with Terry at Coventry and he took a phone call in my presence inviting him to become assistant manager to Walter at Rangers. He asked me about it and I told him to take it because an assistant's post at Ibrox was better than the manager's job at Coventry.

"However, he saw it the other way round and said no. Who knows what might have happened had he taken the job - he might have gone on to replace Walter when he eventually left.

"Terry had a difficult time at the start of his managerial career and his achievements at Coventry were not appreciated as much as they should have been.

"The benchmark was always to stay in the top division.

"Terry achieved that easily in his first year and was sitting comfortably in mid-table the following season when he fell victim to a boardroom power struggle. He has done so well at Motherwell and I'm delighted to see him back in management - when for a while it looked as if he would concentrate on his media career - because he brings such enthusiasm and knowledge to the game."

Mills and Burley were team-mates when Bobby Robson's side won the FA Cup in 1978, watched byteenager Butcher from the Wembley stands The two Englishmen were linchpins in the team that lifted the UEFA Cup three years later. Burley missed the win over AZ 67 Alkmaar through injury.

Mills said: "In our playing days you would have backed Terry ahead of George to go on and be a manager.

"George was very much the quiet man in a squad of fairly lively characters like Terry and Paul Mariner.

"If you'd ever been tempted to put money on him becoming a boss you'd have been offered long odds.

"He didn't have it easy at Ayr or Colchester, and initially at Ipswich, but has blossomed into a top-flight manager any club would be happy to employ.

"If there hadn't been difficulties behind the scenes at Derby I'm sure he'd still be there because he was doing a good job, quietening one or two of the critics at Ipswich who showed him the door.

"It was a coup for Hearts to attract George but the timing was right and he liked what they were telling him.

"The Old Firm haven't been challenged since Aberdeen and Dundee United did it more than 20 years ago but with George in charge it's possible Hearts can do it now.

"There's a good support in Edinburgh and I know the people who run the club are ambitious.

"George has got off to a beautiful start and with a bit of money behind him and his undoubted skill in the transfer market I reckon he can do very well.

"It might be too soon this year, but if he continues to get the backing it could happen next year or the year after."

Mind you, in terms of showing their emotions pitchside at Tynecastle this afternoon, Mills knows there will only be one winner.

He said: "Big Terry will win the battle of the dugout easily - he'll be down there jumping around and looking lively.

"George, on the other hand, will stand very still and say little. Their personalities are totally different.

"However, when it comes to the action on the field, I reckon George will just about come out on top going by the great start Hearts have made to their season

Taken from the Daily Record

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