The former Premier League footballer had an illustrious career in both England and Scotland having started his career as a trainee at Norwich City in the early 1990s. He gained fame for his famous ‘SAS’ strike partnership with Alan Shearer at Blackburn Rovers, but also courted controversy when he refused former England manager Glenn Hoddle’s selection of him for an England B game before the 1998 World Cup.
Now, he is back in Norwich promoting his new book “Paradise and Beyond,” and while he was unsurprisingly happy to talk about the successes in his career, he was also very candid about his regrets, in particular his refusal to play for Hoddle’s England B side.
Sutton spoke first about the highlight of his career, and mentioned winning the Premier League in the 1994-95 season, in which he scored 15 league goals, but was also keen to give credit to Martin O’Neill for his time at Celtic, where he formed a deadly partnership with Henrik Larsson.
Sutton said: “I think winning the Premiership with Blackburn would be a highlight in terms of what I won, but I also enjoyed playing at a lot of the clubs. I didn’t finish my career at Celtic, but the five years I had up there under Martin O’Neill, after a pretty indifferent year to say the least at Chelsea were great. I knew the game better then, and I really enjoyed my football up there.”
Having said this, the Canaries academy product was then also surprisingly open to talk about his big career regret: refusing to play for England B under Glenn Hoddle in the late-1990s.
“The England thing is something I deeply regret now. Though at the time I felt I was justified in what I did, it was a hot-headed decision and was something I certainly shouldn’t have done.”
It was very refreshing to hear a former player talk so openly about the mistakes they made during their career. Sutton spoke of his anger at not being selected for the full England side, but how this anger lessened with reflection.
Sutton began his career in 1991 at Norwich City having come through their apprenticeship scheme, and reserved a large amount of praise both for the then-manager of the Canaries, Dave Stringer, and their current manager, former Celtic team-mate Paul Lambert.
Sutton said: “I’m always grateful for the start Norwich gave me. I talk about the enjoyment I had at Celtic, but I was young and free [at Norwich]. I came through the youth team and a two-year apprenticeship, and I was very lucky to go into the team and play with so many good, experienced players, and I felt being brought up at Norwich with the type of football they played, and some of the players I played with, was really crucial to the development of my career.
“I think Paul Lambert has done an incredible job. I’ve said many times I don’t think Norwich are a Division One club, far from it. But the way the financial markets are in the game, getting out of the Championship in one year and coming into the Premiership, they’ve done incredibly well. He’s recruited players in who have got real freedom about themselves and don’t have bad experience of the Premiership, which is a good thing.”
Having finished his playing career, Sutton first tried his hand at management in the 2009-10 season at Lincoln City, and despite an impressive run in the FA Cup and keeping the Imps in the Football League, he resigned, citing personal reasons. However, it is clear that he is still keen to have a career in management, but only if the right position is available.
He said: “I’m doing my Pro-Licence now, but I’m not in a mad rush to get back in. If something came up that I fancied I would consider it. I’ve got a young family at the moment, so that’s something I have to consider. But if the right opportunity came up I’d take it.”
Sutton finished his interview with more reflections on his career, in particular the strike partner he most enjoyed playing alongside throughout his time in football. Despite having played with such illustrious names as Alan Shearer, George Weah and Gianfranco Zola, Sutton was unequivocal in his response of Henrik Larsson.
Sutton added: “I was very fortunate at different times, but I just felt Larsson could do everything. He could score goals, hold the ball up, if he dropped deep he had pace and he was phenomenal in the air. His international record was incredible, and playing at Celtic alongside him was a really great experience for me.”
With this, the interview was concluded, and Sutton seemed like a man comfortable with the media attention. His willingness to talk about the regrets he has from his long playing career was particularly refreshing.
Sutton rightly takes his place as one of the best English strikers in the modern era after such an impressive goalscoring record throughout his career. It is clear from this interview that while he has achieved great things, he will always remember where he began at Norwich City.