Chris Sutton lifts the lid on his Norwich City exit
09:51 05 October 2011
Former Norwich City striker Chris Sutton has lifted the lid on his record-breaking move to Blackburn Rovers – and the night he spent in a police cell after his farewell party got out of hand.
In his autobiography, published today, he reveals how he sat through a press conference at Carrow Road in 1994 where City chairman Robert Chase announced he would “test the water” to see if any club would come up with the £5m asking price. But, claims Sutton, he had by then already signed for Blackburn.
Sutton’s 25 Premiership goals for the Canaries in the 1993-94 season made him hot property, but only Arsenal and Blackburn were willing to pay what was then a British record transfer fee.
In his book, “Paradise and Beyond”, he recalls: “I quickly made my mind up to sign for Blackburn and travelled up to the North West. I met the chairman, Robert Coar, at his house and signed terms on a five-year contract there and then. Norwich had agreed a fee with Blackburn and they gave me permission to talk to the club. But I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone; I was sworn to secrecy by Robert Chase.
“I travelled back to Norwich and had a meeting with Robert Chase.
“He told me he was going to call a press conference to stop all the speculation about me leaving the club because he had previously stated that if I wasn’t at the club for the start of the new season, then he wouldn’t be there either.
“He also said he would make it known at the press conference that he would test the water with other clubs and if a club came up with a £5m transfer fee for me he would let me go. It was surreal because I had already signed for Blackburn.
“I wasn’t totally comfortable with Robert Chase’s press conference but I had no choice, I had to go along with it. But it was misleading to the Norwich fans.”
However, Sutton believes former chairman Chase “did a lot of good for Norwich City Football Club”.
He argues: “He had a big part in the building of the new training ground and the redevelopment of Carrow Road . . . I think it’s fair to say he was a shrewd operator.”
Sutton also recalled how his going-away party in Norwich on the eve of his move to Blackburn ended with a night in police custody. He writes: “It’s fair to say a lot of alcohol was consumed and things got a bit out of hand. Going from one pub to another, I jumped right inside a convertible car headfirst. I caused a little bit of damage to the indicator by bending the lever. Suffice to say it was a pretty stupid thing to do.”
He left the bar in Tombland in a taxi but was followed by three police cars.
“You’d have thought I’d killed someone. I was taken out of the taxi and into the back of one of the police cars. They took me to the police station and put me in a cell,” he says. “It makes me cringe just thinking about it now. It was brainless behaviour. I had let a lot of people down.”
Sutton, 38, who won the Premiership title in his first season at Blackburn, later starred for Chelsea, Celtic – alongside current City boss Paul Lambert - Birmingham and Aston Villa. He retired in 2007 because of an eye injury, a year after returning to Norfolk with his family.
He attributes much of his success in football to Norwich team-mates Ruel Fox and Ian Crook, and in the book he includes the two Uefa Cup colleagues in his dream team.
“Ruel – along with Ian Crook – was the main reason why I progressed in the game. For me, Ruel should have played for England. I can’t think of many players who had his all-round ability,” he says.
Of Crook, he says: “He was the best passer of a ball I played with and when I look at the players in the game today, I still haven’t seen anyone better.”
Sutton also reveals his disappointment at not re-joining the Canaries in 2006, when manager Nigel Worthington decided against signing him.
“Only Nigel knows the exact reasons for not signing me. I would have loved to go back and play for Norwich and maybe if he’s signed me, he would have kept his job,” he says. “There was speculation in the local media that I was on my way back to Carrow Road but I never felt it was going to happen.”
• “Paradise and Beyond: My Autobiography,” by Chris Sutton with Mark Guidi (Black & White Publishing) is now on sale, price £18.99.