Butterfield: Walsall deal a dream come true
Kacy Milan Butterfield has fulfilled a childhood dream of turning professional after signing a one-year deal with Sky Bet League One side Walsall.
Butterfield has been on the club's radar since December last year when he joined the Black Country outfit on trial after being recommended by Kyle Lightbourne, a former Walsall fans' favourite.
The 18-year-old, who played briefly under Lightbourne at Premier Division side Robin Hood, is under no illusions that the hard work is just beginning as he targets a place in the club's first-team squad.
“I was shocked when Walsall offered me a contract as I thought they were going to wait until after the summer,” Butterfield told The Royal Gazette. “It feels like a good fit as they are a family club and everybody has made me feel at home.
“I feel like I can make the first team and I want to break into it as soon as possible.”
Butterfield had hoped to sign for Walsall before Christmas after his successful three-week trial, however, a medical revealed he needed surgery on a torn ligament in his left shoulder.
When he returned to England in April, Butterfield needed to prove himself all over again, as Dean Smith, the manager who had initially offered him a deal, had left the club for Championship side Brentford.
Fortunately, Jon Whitney, formerly the club's physio who had spotted Butterfield's shoulder injury, had replaced Smith's short-lived successor, Sean O'Driscoll, and was keen to take another look at the teenager.
“Failing the medical was a bad moment for me,” said Butterfield, whose contract has an option to extend for a further year.
“I had already proved myself to one coach and then I had to prove myself to another.
“It was a tough time, but it gives me confidence knowing two different managers wanted to sign me.
“They put me straight into a friendly against Bradford City Under-21s to test my shoulder. We lost 6-1, but I think I played pretty well.”
Having spent three months on trial at Barclays Premier League side Bournemouth at the start of last season, the 6ft 4in holding midfielder already felt well prepared for the rigours of the English game when he first arrived at Walsall.
“It was a good learning experience at Bournemouth where I played with some of the best players I've ever seen,” said Butterfield, whose trials at Bournemouth were arranged by Andrew Powell, a Bermudian scout living in England.
“I still keep in touch with some of them to this day. Playing with players at that level gave me a lot of confidence before I went to Walsall.”
Butterfield's football journey has been carefully and patiently plotted by his father, Casey Butterfield, who coached his son as a junior at FC United in the Bermuda Football Association youth leagues.
“When I was five I told my dad that I wanted to be a professional football player and I've stuck to that ever since,” Butterfield said. “My dad's been a big influence for me and always tried to help me get better as a player.”
Butterfield Sr has always believed in his son's ability but admits he was concerned that Walsall would drop their interest once Smith left the club.
“Dean Smith loved Milan and I was actually more scared when he left the club than when they told Milan he needed surgery,” said Butterfield, who is assistant coach at Hood.
“I'm proud of Milan for this accomplishment. I always knew he had the technical and tactical ability from when I coached him at youth level.
“The best advice I can give any parent is to believe and support her child's dreams. If parents embrace the journey it will be rewarded.”
Whitney, who led Walsall to the play-off semi-finals last season, losing 6-1 on aggregate to Barnsley, said Butterfield was a player with huge potential.
“He's been fantastic in the time he was here last season,” Whitney told the Express & Star.
“His attitude is everything we look for in a young player. He's someone who loves football and loves being at this football club.
“His dad came over to look at the environment here and was really impressed with what he saw.
“He'll join that group of young professionals who we feel have a great chance of developing into our next big crop of players and can take the club on to bigger and better things.”
Butterfield is still awaiting his Bermuda debut after being an unused substitute during the present Caribbean Cup campaign and last year's World Cup qualifiers.