Of all the ex-players making a living commenting on the Scottish game there is one who stands out a mile for being articulate, intelligent and relatively unbiased. He slags Celtic when they deserve it. He slags the Ibrox club when few others will. He will take on refs, he will shoot back at the SFA, he criticises VAR and he will not suffer fools.
I loved Chris Sutton as a player. When I was picking my Best XI for a recent piece, I was loathe not to include him or Hartson in it, and only because Kyogo signed a new deal and is fast closing in on 100 goals did I give him the nod ahead of them.
When forced to pick one or the other I would probably go for Hartson for his goals … but Sutton brought so much more than just goals. He made players around him better.
He was the reason Shearer was such a colossus at Blackburn. He helped make Henrik Larsson into the most lethal finisher in Europe.
But you know what? I’m starting to respect Sutton The Pundit just as much. Because he’s really good at what he does and he deserves a better class of “colleague” in the Sky box than The Village Idiot who is nowhere near him in terms of his professionalism and class.
It’s more than just that though. We are lucky to have had him as a player and as such a passionate advocate for the club in the aftermath. But Scottish football should increasingly be coming to the conclusion that he is one of its best advocates as well. His comments at the weekend, when talking to The Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman for his column in the aftermath of the Atletico game in midweek was absolutely superb. And he did more than defend Celtic.
Sutton defended Scottish football. Robustly. Brilliantly.
In a week when other commentators up here have torched our game and slandered every aspect of it, an Englishman with no responsibility to talk our game up, with a loyalty to only one team here, and under no obligation whatsoever to promote it far less defend it, has done what none of the rest have been willing to do and that is something every single one of us, regardless of what clubs we follow, should be grateful for.
It is exceptional that this man has such regard for our game here when so many of those who are paid to cover it do not. It is phenomenal that he defends it when they scorn it. His comments should be recorded here in full. They are exceptional.
“It was interesting in a European week that you chose to have a pop at Celtic. I saw your article and it was a pop at Celtic and a pop at Scottish football,” he told Ladyman. “In a week when Manchester United, who have spent over £400million, lose to the minnows of Copenhagen, you chose not to mention that. Newcastle United have spent a fortune and are bottom of their Champions League group, but you just went all in on Celtic and Scottish football.
“But the bottom line is Brendan Rodgers. You said something about him spending his most valuable years in Scotland. But how can you judge what Brendan’s goals are with him taking on a particular job? That’s not for you to judge. You can change your opinion on a certain job role and if Brendan is doing that, and has gone back into a difficult situation, then he’s entitled to do that. That’s not for you to judge. And your whole ‘mediocre poverty’ line on Scottish football, is it all about commercialism? Is it all about elitism?
“You’re telling me, in your opinion, the Scottish league is poor. But this is where Scottish people get sick and tired of the likes of yourself. It’s a misguided judgement. Scottish football, in terms of attendances, is the best supported league in Europe. So, you can have your opinion on the standard of football, but the biggest and best barometer is that Scottish people don’t care what you think because they go to the games week in, week out and they love their football.”
I think that’s fantastic of him, to stand up for the game here in that fashion. He could easily have joined in with the sneering halfwits and pig ignorant shock-jocks of English football in sniggering over Celtic’s travails and the wider slagging of the Scottish game, but not only does he refuse to but he stands up for both. When did you last hear that from the likes of Tom English or any of those other guys who’ve spent their careers whipping our game instead?
Scottish football is not perfect. It’s far from it. But our game is being sucked dry by an influx of money to England, and the bloat of that league is obvious when you consider the salaries being paid down there to mediocre footballers who wouldn’t get in our team … and they are all over that league, some of them earning six figures a week.
Sutton is our best advocate. He shames those pygmies who are more interested in the sounds of their own voice and looking good to their colleagues down south as they roll their eyes and talk our sport down. Sutton has no reason to do this other than that he cares, that he gives a damn, and that’s more than any of these others do.