BARNSLEY skipper Jacob Butterfield has admitted to The Star that he is at the biggest crossroads of his career.
In an exclusive interview, Butterfield talks openly for the first time about whether to sign a new lucrative contract and continue blossoming at Oakwell or jump ship and head for the bright lights of the Premier League, with a number of big clubs rumoured to be interested in him.
The 21-year-old midfielder, whose current two-year deal expires this summer, has been in the best form of his career having been given the chance to shine by new Reds’ boss Keith Hill. Two England U21 international call-ups have followed, but with that comes growing speculation that the former academy scholar is on the verge of leaving when the January transfer window re-opens.
Hill wants Butterfield to stay, but the player won’t be rushed into making what he believes could be the biggest decision of his career.
“I’m still thinking things through, it’s a massive decision for me,” Butterfield told The Star. “You hear all kinds of rumours, but I try not to look into them. I’m just thinking what’s best for me at this stage in my career. I love working for the gaffer and playing at Barnsley.
“Playing week-in, week-out is great and being captain is a massive honour. They’re a great set of lads and I’m comfortable where I’m living, so there’s not really any need for me to leave.
“But every player, growing up as a kid, dreams of playing in the Premier League. I’m no different. I want to play at the highest level.
“I’d love to go on and play in the Champions League and for England, I’ve got those ambitions.
“I’m not getting carried away though, I am taking things one step at a time but it’s up to me to make the right step now.
“I might do well to stay at Barnsley and develop further here, but it might not be that. I haven’t made that decision yet.”
Former Reds winger Adam Hammill triggered a £500,000 buy-out clause in his contract last season to leave the Reds for Premier football with Wolves. But having been a regular and fans’ favourite at Oakwell, the 23-year-old has found first team opportunities limited this season with just two league starts for his new club.
Hammill has featured as sub on four of the eight occasions he has played this season, with two other starts in the Carling Cup before the club got eliminated from the competition.
“It’s a tough decision because Adam’s gone and he’s got the opportunity to go and play in the Premier League, it’s hard for any player to turn that down,” stressed Butterfield, who has scored four goals this term.
“It’s the best league in the world and every player that has ambition looks to make that move. Some people might say that if I got a move I wouldn’t play regularly, but I’m the type of person and player who thinks that if I did get that move I’d be good enough to do well.
“I don’t think any player would admit to themselves that they’re not good enough to play in that team. Every player who makes a step forward in their career does that thinking that they can take that step. It’s probably not quite worked out for Adam the way he wanted, but football is a game that he can change. He’s getting chances here and there, so if he does well he could be playing regularly in the Premier League.”
Now it’s left to see whether the former Manchester United youngster decides to put pen to paper on a new Oakwell deal which, The Star understands, will earn the player around four times more than what he currently earns.
“I’m still young, I’m still developing and learning, but most importantly I’m happy and enjoying my football,” said Butterfield. “I’ll deal with what happens in the future when it comes to it.
“I’m not in any rush to make a decision because I’m here for the near future anyway. I’m just focusing on my football for now.”
Barnsley travel to Peterborough tomorrow.