Stringer: Such a shame for Sutton
DAVID CUFFLEY The manager who gave Chris Sutton his Football League debut has spoken of his disappointment that the former Norwich City star's career is over. The Aston Villa striker announced his retirement from football yesterday at the age of 34 because of an eye injury that has sidelined him since last Christmas.
The manager who gave Chris Sutton his Football League debut has spoken of his disappointment that the former Norwich City star's career is over.
The Aston Villa striker announced his retirement from football yesterday at the age of 34 because of an eye injury that has sidelined him since last Christmas.
Dave Stringer, who blooded the 18-year-old Sutton in the Canaries first team in 1991, said he wished he could have carried on longer.
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“It's a shame, really. I would have thought Chris had a few more years left in him. It's an abrupt end to his career which I'm sure he didn't really want,” said Stringer.
“But I'm sure it's a decision he's made with good advice and it may have been dangerous to carry on.
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“It was probably the last bit of his career, but it might have been interesting. I think he would have liked to have played for Norwich again at one time and I think he would have been a good addition to what we had at the time.”
Sutton alternated seamlessly between centre-half and striker in his first three seasons with City before he settled for an attacking role in 1993-94, when he scored 25 Premiership goals, a record for Norwich in the top flight, and 28 in all competitions, earning a British record £5m move to Blackburn, winning the title in his first season at Ewood Park.
But Stringer was particularly impressed by one of Sutton's early appearances as a defender at Anfield.
He said: “It's always a critical time when you blood a young player and in his case it came a bit quicker than we thought.
“I remember we took him to Liverpool as a substitute and I was hoping on that occasion we wouldn't have to use somebody with very little experience. But we had an injury to Ian Butterworth, Chris had to go on immediately and he looked the part from the off. I think we were more worried about it than he was.”
City lost 2-1 but Sutton was on his way.
“I think it's a little easier to start off at the back and see the game in front of you than to play up front with your back to the goal,” said Stringer.
“Chris did graduate to playing up front and that's the best way to do it so you adjust to the pace of the game.”
Stringer played with top goalscorers such as Ron Davies, Hugh Curran and Ted MacDougall at Norwich, and reckons Sutton was up there with the best.
“He was a big, quick, strong centre-forward and similar in some ways to Ron Davies. It's not an easy thing to score as many goals as he did,” he said.
“To get 25 in one Premiership season proved how good he was and the fact that he was wanted by so many clubs is a good barometer.
“He's had an excellent career, he's won things in England and Scotland and there is no one more pleased than me to see how well he's done.
“I played with Mike, his father, for Norwich and I'm sure he's very proud to see how well he's done.”
Sutton, who captained England Under-21s and won one full cap against Cameroon in 1997, was a surprise signing by Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill last summer.
But he played just nine matches for Villa, with the eye problem which arose in a match against Manchester United on December 23 keeping him sidelined for the rest of the season.
Sutton's agent, Tony McGill, said: “I spoke to Chris on Wednesday and, given the eye problem, he has decided to retire. If Chris had declared his eye was OK, he would probably have got another year at Villa.
“But he decided that he could not do himself justice with the eye injury and - more importantly - he has taken into account the effects it might have on his future life.”
In all, Sutton scored 43 times in 127 games for City. Moves to Blackburn, Chelsea for £10m, Celtic for £6m and Birmingham followed.
Despite being sent off on his home debut, it was at Celtic that Sutton won most honours. He won three SPL titles, two Scottish Cups and one Scottish League Cup as well as helping Celtic reach the 2003 UEFA Cup final, where they lost to Jose Mourinho's Porto side in Seville.
He was the Scottish PFA Players' Player of the Year in 2004.
Last summer, there were hopes he may return to Carrow Road, only for manager Nigel Worthington to dismiss the idea on fitness grounds.
Sutton is now back living in Norfolk and playing cricket for Sheringham.