Tributes paid to United fan 'Old John' Butterfield

Monday 17 April 2023 15:30

Last week we said goodbye to a much-loved, lifelong Red, when John Butterfield – known affectionately as 'Old John' – passed away at the age of 89.

Born in Salford, John began following Manchester United in the 1930s, attending his first match in 1939 at just six years old. He went to the same school as one of the Busby Babes who lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster, Eddie Colman, and was a good friend of another, David Pegg.
Sadly, John contracted Covid-19 earlier this month, and was unable to overcome the illness.
When news spread around the United-supporting community, a wave of well-wishers used social media to pay tribute to a kind and helpful fan who had made a big impression on those who encountered him at matches and, in particular, on European away trips.


John's great pal Pete Bolton (pictured with him above), told the Manchester Evening News: “He was the nicest gentleman I've ever known. In the 25 years I knew him, I never saw him get annoyed at or angry with anyone. His whole life was dedicated to United.
“We got to know each other through United. I loved travelling with John, and he loved travelling with me.I will never find another friend like him. Nobody will be as loyal, gentle, and loving a chap as John was.”

Boxing champion and famous United fan Antony Crolla replied to Pete's tweet about John: “God bless him. Always remember in Midtjylland, it was absolutely baltic but he just had a shirt on with his coat open. Lovely bloke.”

BBC Radio Manchester sports editor Bill Rice added: “Very sorry for your loss Pete. Met both you and John at Manchesterplatz in 2014, and you were really kind and helpful to me on that day, and many others since. Thoughts are with you and all his friends and family.”
Boxing champion Antony Crolla (right) joined in the tributes to 'Old John.'
Butterfield was a regular on European trips from 1996 until 2017, missing just five games during that period.
He stepped back from continental matches after attending our famous Europa League final success over Ajax in Stockholm, having suffered a bad fall in Vigo, where United played Celta in the semi-final of that competition.
After making his decision to 'retire' from Euro aways, John spoke to our matchday programme, United Review, and shared some fantastic memories of following the club.
Pete and John hold up the familiar 'One Love' flag on one of their many away trips.
“My favourite trips are the Moscow final of 2008 and all of the 1998/99 away games,” he told UR. “Although the trip to Saint-Etienne was also a memorable one, because we were taxied to the ground in a police van!
“They wouldn’t let any of us United fans use the tram, but I couldn’t walk all the way there because I was 83! So they got on the radio and got a van to take us right to the turnstiles.
“I’ve done my fair share of travelling and I’ve had some wonderful experiences following United, making some great friends too. I'll definitely miss it.”
And how we'll miss the pleasant sight of John's smile around Old Trafford, and at away matches, now that he has gone.
The best wishes of all at Manchester United are extended to John's family and friends at this sad time. Rest in peace, 'Old John'.