Butt Len Image 1 Southampton 1921

Butt Len Image 1 Southampton 1921


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Freemantle, Southampton, Hampshire born right half Len Butt played his youth football with various local teams including Malmesbury United and Shirley St James. Whilst playing on Southampton Common, he was spotted by a Southampton player, Bert Lee, who invited Butt to The Dell for a trial. Butt signed as a professional for the Southern League club in April 1912 and spent the next two years as a reserve team player. On the outbreak of First World War, Butt enlisted in the 5th Hampshire Regiment and spent much of the next four years serving in India, where he played cricket for his regiment.

On returning to Southampton at the end of the war, he found employment with the Thornycroft shipbuilding works at Woolston. Butt played for the works team, Thornycrofts, who were then one of the finest non-league teams in Southern England, and was paid ten shillings a game. During Butt’s time with the club, they reached the First Round of the FA Cup, where they took First Division club Burnley to a replay in January 1920, losing 5-0 at Turf Moor after a 0-0 draw for the first game which was switched to Portsmouth’s Fratton Park. Butt played inside right in both matches.

Butt’s form with Thornycrofts once again attracted the attention of Bert Lee, now Southampton’s trainer, and in August 1920 he re-joined The Saints, now in the Third Division (South) as a full-time professional, making his Football League debut at Brentford that October. Although small for a half back, Butt was quick into a tackle and his wholehearted attitude earned the nickname “Badger Butt” (according to Southampton historians Holley & Chalk).

Butt spent two seasons with Southampton, during which period he made 18 first team appearances but he was prevented from playing more regularly by the form of the established half back line-up of Bert Shelley, Alec Campbell and Bill Turner, and was only called into the first team if one of these was injured. His longest run in the side came at the end of the 1920-21 season, when he played 11 matches at left half, taking over from Turner, who had dropped to right back as replacement for the injured Tom Parker. In Southampton’s Third Division (South) Championship winning 1921-22 season he made only 4 appearances.

Butt then joined Boscombe, then playing in the Southern League, on a free transfer in June 1922 and was appointed team captain. Within a year, Boscombe gained admittance to the Football League Third Division (South) as Southern League runners-up, Butt playing in the club’s inaugural League fixture at Swindon Town in August 1923 being an ever present in their first League campaign, and in 1924 the club changed its name to Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic. Butt remained at Dean Court for a further four years, missing only one match in 1924-25 and 6 matches in 1925-26. Thereafter he spent two seasons playing only occasionally before retiring in the autumn of 1927 having scored 3 goals in 141 appearances for Bournemouth.

He joined Cowes on the Isle of Wight in 1928 and continued to play for them for many years. In 1932, he played at The Dell for Cowes in the Hampshire Senior Cup Final against Isle of Wight rivals, Newport, the Newport side included two ex-Southampton team mates, Bill Rawlings and Arthur Dominy and a crowd of 20,000 witnessed a Newport victory.

When he died in 1993 in his 100th year, at the time of his death he was the last surviving player to have signed for Southampton when they were still in the Southern League.

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