Former Norwich City ace ‘the new Simon Cowell’

Ex-Norwich City skipper Ian Butterworth has a new kind of starring role in football – as Turkish TV's answer to Simon Cowell.

Butterworth is the English anchor man and sole judge for hit reality show Soccer Prince, which has started a 26-week run in Turkey.

The show, labelled locally as 'Futbol Prensi', offers the overall winner a 12-month development programme with Liverpool Football Club.

Young footballers aged from 14 to 16 are attending auditions in 15 cities, with two shows screened each week on Turkish national channel TRT, and the final is scheduled for the weekend of May 5 and 6.

Butterworth, 47, one-time City assistant manager and still living in Norwich, was recruited for the programme after the show's creators, football development company Kickworldwide, approached the League Managers' Association.

He said: 'Steve Cartwright and Steve Bellis, the Kickworldwide directors, contacted the LMA and wanted an experienced coach to be a consultant and judge and do a little bit of coaching.

'The job came up and I thought I'd go for it. I had an interview in London with Fremantle Media, who produced The X Factor and Pop Idol, and I got the job.

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'The show is being produced by TVK, who are a very innovative company and are Kickworldwide's long-term partners in Turkey.'

The show is broadcast on Thursdays and Saturdays, and the Saturday show includes live eliminations.

'I do a live show on a Saturday night with former referee Ahmet �akar, who was at Euro 96 and refereed Champions League games, and has become a big pundit and TV personality in Turkey,' said Butterworth.

'I am the sole judge once it gets to the boot camp stage, I have the last vote and everything.

'Everyone jokes that I'm the Simon Cowell of the competition. Even in the auditions I've had people crying, parents coming up to me wanting to know why their youngsters are not going through, and it gets a bit emotional. The average is about 300 players at each audition and 300 is quite hard to get down to eight for a show. Some are just kids who play on the streets, some of them are decent players.'

The reality TV format for football has its similarities with the British showbiz versions.

'It's the back stories that get the viewers in,' said Butterworth.

'We've got lads turning up with no boots, a lad with one arm, twins turning up, anything that gives a little bit of an angle.

'The Turks are very, very passionate about football when you look at the likes of Galatasary, Fenerbahce and Besiktas, and the fans are unbelievable.'

Butterworth and former Bolton defender Paul Jones, also taking the auditions, have been flying across Turkey between the cities hosting the programme.

He said: 'We've been doing the cities on the Black Sea like Trabzon and Samsun and others right on the border of Syria.

'When we go back we have to do another six cities and we end up in Istanbul, which is where it all happens in Turkey and which has become very up-market.

'I have a full-time interpreter with me but I'm picking up a little bit of Turkish now, especially numbers and colours, and I can pick up the basic things with most languages.

'Kickworldwide service and support grass roots football in under-developed countries and this is their third Soccer Prince. They did one in Vietnam and one in China, and they have plans to do them in Russia, Uzbekistan and Brazil.'

Liverpool, official partners for the show, provided the first prize for the Vietnam show and some of their Academy players visited Ho Chi Minh City as part of the format.

Butterworth, who played 293 times for City, admits he is currently 'spinning plates' with his football roles, still working as an FA scout – notably for England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce, his former Coventry and Nottingham Forest team-mate.

'I picked up five games to do for Stuart while I was home over Christmas, watching players for England Under-21s and the Olympic team, including Norwich v Spurs and Norwich v Fulham,' he said.

'I have a good relationship with Stuart because I've known him for years. Before I went to Turkey I was doing quite a bit for the senior team and I hope to do some scouting for the European Championships. I want to get back into coaching and management but it's a question of the right job coming along.'