My Norwich City Story #5: Chris Sutton on the highs and lows of his Canaries career
- Credit: Archant
In the next instalment of our My Norwich City Story series, Chris Sutton talks to us about an eventful Canaries career which featured 43 goals in 126 games.
Chris Sutton remains the only player to ever score 25 goals in a top-flight season for Norwich City but there is one enduring image which sticks in the memory when fans think about the striker.
The photo of a clearly seething Sutton, struggling to keep his emotions below the surface as former Canaries chairman Robert Chase insisted that the striker wouldn't be the latest player sold to balance the books, summed up a difficult period in the club's history.
Following on from the sale of Ruel Fox to Newcastle for £2.25m less than six months earlier, the sale of local lad Sutton really had fans worried about City's financial situation, following the exit of manager Mike Walker to Everton - who had engineered third place in the inaugural Premier League season and the subsequent Uefa Cup run.
"It was a tough period really," Sutton reflects. "I knew from an early stage that in all likelihood, unless there was ambition shown by Norwich City, then I was going to leave.
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"It was all really odd because discussions go on between agents and clubs - as we all know and pretend that they don't. Robert Chase, now that everything has ended and he's not at the club any more, I thought he actually did some good for Norwich City back in the day. I can totally understand the frustration of the support, that the fans and the players were frustrated, because after Europe it was 'loosen the purse strings' and for whatever reason that didn't materialise.
"But in the way that I was transferred and the infamous press conference, where I'd signed for Blackburn a week before but I was told to shut my mouth or I'd be in trouble, even though I couldn't be because I'd signed for them a week earlier, that was extremely odd and a little bit caniving from Robert Chase.
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- 8 Operation Bounce Back: The story of City's promotion success
- 9 Farke's personal message to City fans
- 10 Paddy Davitt: Player ratings after Canaries' 3-1 Bournemouth defeat
"He'd done the deal with Blackburn for £5million and then changed the terms and I think he said if I wasn't there the next season, then he wouldn't be there, which a lot of the fans might have been happy with, I don't know...
"But he certainly called the press conference and changed the terms, saying that if I was to go for a British record £5million then that would change things, when the fee had already been agreed and I'd signed.
"That put me under a bit of pressure in the press conference, in a slightly awkward position, but as with most things in my life I just went along with it."
My Norwich City Story #2: Ruel Fox - in his own words
Sutton was looking back on his Canaries career in the latest instalment of our My Norwich City Story series, discussing a wide range of subject, including his formative years, 1992 FA Cup semi-final disappointment, Uefa Cup memories and spending the night in a police cell for damaging a car on a night out in Norwich.
The 46-year-old former Blackburn, Chelsea and Celtic striker, who now works as a Premier League pundit for BT Sport and the BBC, also spoke about his father, Mike, who is sadly battling the effects of dementia in his mid-80s.
"We look very similar, we've both got enormous noses!" Sutton began, on a lighter note.
"In terms of becoming a professional footballer, it's all down to him really. In keeping me going and dragging me out of bed in the mornings, making sure that I'd go in and do circuits, cross-country and running, I used to do a lot of track work when I was 15.
"I wasn't a great athlete but I think those years were so important, in pushing me. I'd say 'I don't want to do it' but I'd go in and kick a ball against the wall in the gym in the morning, we used to go to the beach at Lowestoft and practice clipping with left and right foot.
"Those years were so important in terms of training my brain and having that base and belief, and when I got the opportunity again, my fitness levels when I went to Norwich City were really phenomenal.
"That was down to one man and after games I used to speak to him, at school he was my PE teacher and he would never, ever give me any praise in front of any of the other kids, it was an absolute no-no.
"But I think he was very fair, if I did well he'd say and more often than not when I didn't do well he'd tell me. I think the fact that he pushed me, and to the limit at times, some people might have deemed nowadays that he was too tough.
"But without that there's absolutely no way that I would have become a footballer, so for that I'm extremely grateful.
"He used to play and he's sort of suffering at the moment, through dementia, in a home on the outskirts of the city where he's cared for, he has 24-hour care, that's very said but it is what it is and one of those things where I go and see him, go and spend time with him.
"I don't think he really knows who I am, or who my children are any more, but if I talk to him I do talk about back in the day or funny times, times with football, like at Hellesdon High School when I got injured in a game and he was the referee and he ran past me and said 'get up you wimp!'.
"Or in cricket, if I played an expansive shot and he was umpire, he used to glare at me as if to say 'play properly'. But it was all for a reason and because he loved me and wanted me to do well, so for that I'm eternally grateful to him."
It could all have been so different for Sutton though, who was initially rejected by Norwich City as a youngster.
Born in Nottingham, before his family's return to Norfolk, Sutton was raised in Horsford and was often more interested in cricket during his school days.
I wasn't the best player in the area, far from it, but I was invited to a Norwich City trial at the age of 12," recalled Sutton.
"It was the Centre of Excellence back then, it was run by a guy called John Waters and I used to go down on a Monday night. I used to cycle to my grandmother's house at Hellesdon and she used to walk me round to a guy's house called Neil Carey and his father used to drive us to Trowse.
"I had a trial period for six to 10 weeks and at the end of that trial period Norwich City said they didn't want to keep me on. So essentially I was rejected.
"I can remember at the time feeling quite hurt and dejected and thought it was the end of the world, naturally as I would, and that was my chance gone. So I wouldn't say I was a bit anti-football at the time but that's when I started to probably concentrate more on my cricket than my football.
"So throughout my teenage years, 13, 14, 15, I would say I was more into my cricket than my football."
My Norwich City Story #1: Robert Green - in his own words
However, his second chance with the Canaries arrived after being spotted in county cup action for Hellesdon High School, scoring a hat-trick at the Hewett School in the semi-final and again in the final at Great Yarmouth High.
"It was the end of the season at Norwich City so I had about a two or three-week window of opportunity and played a couple of games," he continued.
"I think we played against Northampton, and then we played this touring team at Trowse who were utterly useless and I scored about 10 goals in this game and that was probably the break which I needed. Norwich City then gave me a two-year YTS contract.
"So essentially I had come from rejection at 12 not being through the schoolboy system and all of a sudden I thought I was going to be a big hitter at Norfolk County Council (after getting a job as a clerk) and the next thing I'm signing for Norwich City on a YTS! I know which one I preferred."
- You can watch episode five of our My Norwich City Story series in full above and the previous episodes, with Robert Green, Ruel Fox, Andy Hughes and Jon Newsome, at youtube.com/OfficialPinkUn