Looking Back: Chris Sutton Appointed

A player who lacked the bottle for international football and lacked the bottle for League Two management

I originally wrote this piece for the now defunct Lincoln City Mad Website back in September 2009. I think it’s interesting to note the tone of apprehension in the piece.

The Imps board of directors today made a choice to gamble on the clubs future by appointing former Celtic and England striker Chris Sutton as the new manager at Sincil Bank. Sutton formed part of the ‘SaS’ partnership with Alan Shearer at Blackburn in the mid nineties but has so far shown no coaching or managerial credentials. He comes coupled with another ex Blackburn player, Ian Pearce who will take the role of assistant manager and player. 

The news has been labelled a ‘shock’ at the very least, although LCM did bring you news of Chris Sutton before anybody else last week. Other favourites included John Pemberton and Gary Brabin, but Brabin didn’t make the second round of interviews, and the playing experience of Sutton and Pearce has been preferred to the coaching experience of Pemberton. 

It is known that Chris Sutton applied for the Inverness Caldeonian Thistle job, but was beaten to that by Terry Butcher. Sutton is perhaps more of a household name north of the border despite his 1 England cap as a scoring legend for Celtic. He won’t take the role immediately, and Simon Clark will be in charge for his fifth and final game tomorrow against Notts County. 

ian pearce
If only Ian Pearce had recaptured his West Ham form for City

Chris Sutton featured as a player for Norwich first of all, where he scored his way to a contract with Blackburn Rovers. His final season at Norwich City saw him play in a Norwich side that struggled to perform for a certain Mr John Deehan. However his name by then was already being mentioned as a potential England player after hitting 25 goals for Mike Walkers Norwich side that finished third in the Premier League. 

A 1994 transfer to moneybags Blackburn Rovers for £5m saw him arrive as a household name. Forming his formidable partnership with Alan Shearer he managed to hit 15 goals in the sides Premiership winning side. In November 1997 he managed to win his only England cap, but famously fell out with Glenn Hoddle and was excluded from the 1998 world cup squad. He never played for England again. 

Blackburns 1999 relegation saw the new Imps boss move to Chelsea for a whopping £10m, however a miserable season at Chelsea saw him net just once before a £6m move to Celtic. However he distinguished himself at Celtic winning 2 Scottish Premier League titles, 2 Scottish Cup titles and making a UEFA Cup final appearance. Following his spell at Celtic he made appearances for both Birmingham and Aston Villa, but finally retired in 2007 after suffering from blurred vision. 

His assistant manager Ian Pearce played for Blackburn, West Ham and Fulham and won the Premier League with Rovers. Recently he has been playing for Kingstonian following his release from Fulham. 

With the gift of hindsight I think Gary Brabin would have been a very good choice.


So what does all this mean for City? Well Sutton certainly impressed as a player, and his first press conference made Radio Lincolnshire Michael Hortin commenting that Sutton had a ‘Aura’. When questions were put to Ian Pearce he made it clear he will be having a say but that this day was ‘Chris Suttons day’. Pearce as a player never played outside the top two divisions bar his stay at Kingstonian, but he intends to pull on his boots to give the side a leader on the field. It remains to be seen if Sutton can bring his top level experience to League Two players though. Can he do it on a wet and windy night at Rochdale is the question?

Sutton certainly fits some of the criteria laid out by the Imps board. He is hungry for success and could be described as ‘young and up and coming’. Sadly he doesn’t fit the final word of the criteria which is ‘manager’. As things stand he is the least experienced of the candidates, with Brabin the most experienced at one season, surprisingly Simon Clark second with 5 games and John Pemberton having 2. To LCM’s knowledge Sutton hasn’t taken a single training session in his career. 

However if Simon Clark remains on board then the coaching won’ be an issue, so then Sutton will be judged on his transfer market prowess and his tactical prowess. There has already been talk of him exploiting several contacts he’s made in the game, and it could lead to a possible move for some Celtic youngsters and maybe even a visit from the Scottish giants in pre season. Steff Wright calls it a calculated risk, I call it playing with fire. However as always I wish Chris well and hope his say is a fruitful one.

Perhaps it’s interesting to note that some of the predictions did come true, we did see Celtic here and we did end up with one of their youngsters, namely Ben Hutchinson. That went well.

Chris did bring a lot of very good footballers to the Bank, albeit on short loan deals. Chris Herd, Eric Lichaj, Nathan Baker, Davide Somma and Matt Saunders all spring to mind as well as a pre injury Adam Watts. However his erratic personality and a failure to find a vein of form really cost him quite dearly. As I mentioned yesterday I don’t think Sutton was taking us up or down, he could call on enough quality players from his contacts to keep us up, but never found the cutting edge to push us on. Would it have happened had he no fallen out with Bob and the crew? Maybe. I personally don’t think he has the right attitude to be a football manager and his barbed comments on TV recently has shown perhaps he’s more suited to throwing criticism out rather than dealing with it coming in.

I really hope I can’t find anything I wrote when Tilly was appointed because I got that spectacularly wrong!!