Setting action for back button in navigation controller

I’m trying to overwrite the default action of the back button in a navigation controller. I’ve provided a target an action on the custom button. The odd thing is when assigning it though the backbutton attribute it doesn’t pay attention to them and it just pops the current view and goes back to the root:

UIBarButtonItem *backButton = [[UIBarButtonItem alloc] 
                                  initWithTitle: @"Servers" 
self.navigationItem.backBarButtonItem = backButton;

As soon as I set it through the leftBarButtonItem on the navigationItem it calls my action, however then the button looks like a plain round one instead of the arrowed back one:

self.navigationItem.leftBarButtonItem = backButton;

How can I get it to call my custom action before going back to the root view? Is there a way to overwrite the default back action, or is there a method that is always called when leaving a view (viewDidUnload doesn’t do that)?

Setting action for back button in navigation controller