A Forgiving Mood

chris-sutton_1490674cHow nice life must be as a cossetted, ex footballer.

To be retiring on good earnings, with millions in the bank.

To know that you are considered an authority on the sport, in a way the average punter never will be.

To realise that you are still the idol of tens of thousands, that you can do quite literally no wrong in their eyes.

To have the right to pontificate on the goings-on at all the clubs you once played for.

How nice that must be.

Not that Mr Sutton knows this … I’ve just found out that he’s been declared bankrupt. Which explains a lot.

You know what makes certain players legends, and consigns the rest to the status of “those who once played for us”?

I’ve increasingly come to believe that it isn’t goals, and it isn’t honours and it isn’t being able to sing the words of all the fans songs, and mix with them in the pubs, caging free drinks from people who’ve already paid enough to you.

No, I think the legends are the ones who have as much respect for the fans, and for the club, as the fans have for them.

That’s why a guy like Paul McStay, who played in a lousy Celtic team, with lousy players, in front of lousy crowds, is a legend and Chris Sutton will forever be “a guy who played for us once.”

I’m going to make a confession about Chris Sutton right now. I never wanted us to sign him in the first place.

When he was at Blackburn, playing alongside Shearer, I thought he was the better player of the two, for the way he laid on so many of the other’s goals. I thought he had more to his game than Shearer would in a lifetime of lifetimes, yet it was his strike partner who got all the glory.

When he went to Chelsea and flopped, I revisited my opinion. I thought that to have failed that colossally was a demonstration of how much I had underestimated Shearer and his ability to make the players around him look better than they were.

When I heard Celtic were going to offer £6 million for Sutton, I thought it was the craziest thing I had ever heard of.

I thought it a monumental risk, one that we would certainly regret.

Dermott Desmond, as it turns out, had doubts of his own, and he communicated those to Martin O’Neill, who told him, and quite rightly, to butt out, because as the manager the decision was his and he would stand or fall by it.

It turns out that I was dead wrong about Chris Sutton, in that I had changed my mind. Sutton was not simply a good player but a truly exceptional one, and playing alongside Henrik Larsson created a better partnership than those who had raved about Sutton and Shearer could have dared dream.

Chris Sutton was a great servant to Celtic, and I don’t doubt that, in a way, he loves the club.

Yet, I have grown honest-to-God tired of the way he expresses that, and I have no respect whatsoever for his decision to use the pages of a newspaper that loathes us in order to do it.

Before I get on to Chris Sutton, I want to say something about that paper.

Over the course of the last few months it has become clear, even to those who do not follow football, that there is no daily in print, in Scotland, which is quite so dishonest and unscrupulous as The Daily Record. That’s something when you consider that the competition includes The Scottish Daily Mail and The Scottish Sun.

If that paper had to stick to writing the truth it would have very little to write.

The contempt in which it holds its readers – to print, day after day, such flagrant, blatant, lies, propaganda and PR fluff masquerading as fact – is absolutely breath-taking in a commercial enterprise.

Not since Gerald Ratner and his tat-selling stores has there been a company that has so openly charged people money for the privilege of being insulted.

Both during, and in the aftermath of the independence referendum, it went well beyond a publication merely taking a side and printing only one side of the story. The Daily Record went full-tilt negative, and when that looked like it might not deliver the result its editor, and his political allies, wanted they got creative.

In the fullness of time, The Vow will do for the remainder of its credibility what Thugs & Thieves did. Whether you voted Yes or whether you voted No, the dishonest way in which they promoted that and are now scrambling madly to pretend the Smith Commission vindicates it is a gross insult to the intelligence of every person who has ever bought a copy of their rag.

During the week past, one of their journalists wrote a mind-boggling article suggesting that Celtic should send Alexander Tonev back to England, branded a racist, because of what a guy thought he heard for two seconds at a noisy Celtic Park.

Their reason? To spare the SFA from having to properly argue its own case.

That’s the level of this paper. That’s the calibre of what passes for “journalism” in its pages.

This discredited rag, more useful as novelty bog-roll than for “educating and informing”, is where Chris Sutton chooses to voice his “expert opinion” on everything that’s wrong at Celtic Park.

And what is his “opinion”? That one day Virgil Van Dijk will leave the club.

Did he really have to fire up brain cells to come up with that?

Does he actually believe it represents any kind of breakthrough in knowledge, or insight?

Way back in the days when I was writing for E-Tims, one of their other writers posted a wonderfully sarcastic article wherein he used a number of Daily Record buzzwords and phrases and constructed a story that was headlined “Celtic Fans In Shock At Larsson Revelation.”

And what was said revelation? That one day Henrik Larsson would be too old to play professional football.

That’s the level on which Sutton’s latest piece belongs.

He was a fine footballer, Big Chris. One of the best I’ve ever seen in the Hoops. But he is no journalist.

He doesn’t belong in a newspaper, far less that particular one.

In carving out his “media career” he shares a common space now with Derek Johnstone, who’s writing is just about foundation level in High School; Andy Goram, who can barely speak in complete sentences far less write them and Barry Ferguson, with his room temperature IQ.

It was a space once occupied by Craig Burley, whose piece on Scotland’s smaller clubs during the Sevco league vote of 2012 was so contemptible and contemptuous of everyone in the game – from the fans to the men in the boardrooms – that it ended his career at a stroke.

For their own good, these people should have been kept away from the word processor, yet here they are, spreading their “wisdom” and revealing their ignorance in the most shocking fashion.

Nothing could more acutely reveal the contempt in which the people who run our media hold us.

Sutton’s comments have riled me on a number of levels.

The first of which is the sheer disloyalty to Celtic and the fans that rings out in the piece. Can he not give credit to the people running the club? They’re trying something new with Deila, and the man needs time to get things together. The shoots of recovery have budded slowly, but they are there and we can now see them. Sutton and others are trying to create controversy where it doesn’t exist.

He thinks the club isn’t ambitious enough any longer. I agree with him, but only to a point. We ought to have invested for the Champions League. We didn’t, and it has cost us, but that’s something I’m willing to put down to it being Ronny’s first year in charge. He will know what he requires to crack it next season, and I sincerely hope he’ll get what he needs.

Everyone knows how I feel about that issue, but time will tell.

I’ll tell you this; ex players raving in the papers and stirring the soup … it won’t help the club one iota.

Sutton says the lack of ambition is one of the reasons for the empty stadiums.

The second is no Rangers in the top flight.

Let’s leave that one for a moment.

Like I said at the start, it must be nice to be a professional football player, with all that money in the bank.

Less so these days to be a football supporter, paying through the nose, and over the odds, to help enrich the likes of him.

I know this will be hard for someone like Sutton – who I assumed, wrongly, was a multimillionaire several times over – to fully grasp, but for some people life is tough. Every match attended is a sacrifice as much as a privilege. Some of these people spend way more money on football than they should. Others spend only up to the level that they can afford.

One of the reasons I am so thoroughly and completely pissed off with this “everything will be alright when Sevco are in the top flight” nonsense is that it makes a wholly unreasonable assumption about the fans; that many of us stay away because of the “lack of competition.”

How about the lack of money? How about the concept that maybe, just maybe, some can no longer afford to attend as many games as they used to?

The buying of a season ticket has become, for some, an expression of loyalty as much as intent to get to matches.

When you add in the cost of travel, the cost of food and all the other paraphernalia involved in going to the games these days you quickly realise that we’re talking about a bloody expensive pursuit here.

Not only will the NewCo not make the top division any more attractive, but the more the media pushes this line like a drug – that it’s the answer to all the problems – the more sure I am that if, and when, there is an Ibrox club in the top flight again they will push the prices ever higher to reflect the new “glamour” of the game.

That would be ripping the arse out of supporters who are already paying too much. A lot of the fans who are left will vote with their feet. The fragile recoveries of some clubs will be set back years, out of greed and stupidity.

The rising cost of football is not just a problem confined to Scotland, of course, but it’s here where my club plays and it’s here where my friends attend games.

Sutton believes the half empty Celtic Park is simply an expression of boredom. He is entitled to his opinion, in this case, which I think is an elitist view from an ex-player, and someone who ought not to have been counting pennies at this stage in his life.

For most people, financial hard times are just where it’s at, and George Osborne and David Cameron can rejoice at the “end of the recession” all they want, but people know there’s less money in their pockets than there was before.

They know football is not a necessity when we live in a time of soaring prices and salaries that are remaining stagnant.

You know what though? It’s not disloyalty or the blindness of distance that bothers me here.

What really bothers me is that Chris Sutton seems to be in a more forgiving mood than is rational.

I remember Chris Sutton on the point of strangling a TV journalist on the day Rangers won the title with their win over Dunfermline. I remember it like it was yesterday. He was furious, and he accused the East End Park club of “lying down.”

Sutton was up here long enough to understand certain fundamental truths, and one of those truths is that he lost league winners medals to a team that won them by cheating. Apart from anything else, that league title gave them a shot in the arm without which they’d have been in deep trouble.

It was the era of EBT’s. It was the time of financial doping.

You cannot look at the present shambles at Sevco without developing the distinct feeling that this is an organisation that learned nothing from those days. There is no sign of humility or self realisation.

The same arrogance permeates the place. Many of its fans remain ungrateful bigots for whom hate is the default position.

The club is still spending money it doesn’t have, and the whole of Scottish football is still being run as if they are the only team that matters.

Why in God’s name is Chris Sutton joining the horde of those who’re pushing this notion that Scottish football needs this club? That Celtic do?

He should know, as well as anyone, what damage they’ve done.

Chris, I loved you as a player but you should be flogged before being allowed near a keyboard.

Even if some of what you write were not disrespectful to the people who’re working at Celtic right now, even if it were not horrendously disloyal, any good sense you speak would be automatically lost, and devalued, at once, by your decision to choose the most dishonourable rag in the business in which to do it.

Your lack of understanding of why fans are going to games is shocking, but I would have excused that point of view, as one from behind lace curtains and gilded windows. Except that you no longer have those, which explains how you’ve wound up writing anti-Celtic crap for that lot.

Worst of all though is that you are pushing the Victim Myth and the Survival Myth and, most horrible of all right now, the Scottish Football Needs Rangers Myth, the consequences of which I’ll be writing about later this week, in a little more detail.

It disrespects every other club in the land. It promotes dangerous attitudes amongst our media. It gives succour to the enemies of the game, those who will hide behind your “Celtic credentials” as the proof that it’s us, the people who are opposed to the concept and the potential rule bending it might usher in, who are the real outsiders, who are the one’s who’re out of touch.

One of the marks of a great striker, which you undoubtedly were, is anticipation. It depends not only on being sure of your own position, but of being able to read what your opponents, as well as your team-mates, might do.

How the Hell did it fail you so badly here?

Why are you in such a forgiving mood all of a sudden?

This article has been amended from the original, due to some people drawing my attention to a piece on Chris Sutton filing for bankruptcy.

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

11 thoughts on “A Forgiving Mood

  • 8 December, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Decent article…agree with some of it but certainly not all of it.

    Chris Sutton was declared bankrupt on 18th May 2014.

    He certainly isn’t a rich ex footballer.

    Maybe he has to ‘compromise ‘ with the SMSM to earn a crust?

    Not saying this is the right thing to do …..but maybe explains the shite he writes for them?

  • 8 December, 2014 at 2:36 am


    A couple of folk have mentioned that. Article is amended accordingly.

    Thanks mate.

  • 8 December, 2014 at 7:35 am

    What is it wrong with so many of our ex players that they continually feel the need to be disparaging about our club,both in print and when commenting on television?
    Andy Walker ( Mr Charisma Bypas himself ) was at it again in the post match chat on Saturday after the Motherwell game.As I was only half listening to his soporific drivel,I can’t be specific about what he said,but the tenor of it was the usual negativity.
    Compare & contrast the output of “our” people ( journalists included )with that of former Rangers ( IL)
    players,managers etc.To a man every single one of the Rangers’ guys have defended the fat man,making extraordinary pleas for his incompetence to be regarded in the light of his “staunchness” and loyalty to the dead entity,while Ronny Deila has been clobbered since day one.
    That national embarrassment Keevins even said that he couldn’t possibly criticise Mc Coist on the grounds that he was a friend !!!!!!!! WTF?
    That was bad enough,but the fact that he actually felt that he could say even that,far less be concerned that it would reflect poorly on his impartiality,says it
    Charlie Nicholas is another serial offender.
    There seems to still be something hard wired into the psyche of these people,a residual sense of “keep our heads down,offer plenty of criticism of Celtic to show we’re impartial and fair minded,but stop short of criticising the “establishment club” for fear of not towing the party line and being excluded from playing with the big boys.
    I’ll eat every one of my many wedding hats if I ever see a negative article from a Rangers minded,so called legend, or journalist,but I couldn’t be sure of not having hat stew if I said the same about any Celtic minded player or journalist.

  • 8 December, 2014 at 11:36 am

    What the Record loves more than anything when it comes to putting the boot in,is getting one of our own to do it for them.
    Sutton is a traitor IMO,and he will be getting all the more encouragement from the likes of Jackson,down on the Broomielaw,so don’t expect it to stop anytime soon.

  • 8 December, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Can see a theme developing here Andy Walker, Frank McGarvey and now bankrupt Chris Sutton. Ex players needing a few Bob and towing the SMSM line. Quite sad in respect of Sutton as he had earned the Celtic legend title imo, unlike the other two.
    Why the wee rat Nicholas does it is another matter.

  • 8 December, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    “… the whole of Scottish football is still being run as if they are the only team that matters.”

    Mispelling. Change the “l” to an “r” in “whole” …

    Btw, Sutton might not be bankrupt had he the earnings from the leagues stolen by the Hun …

  • 8 December, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I couldn’t give one iota if chris was bankrupt or not the simple thing is he’s been slating celtic fc at every opportunity even after the dinamo game he berated ronny delia sutton was held in high regard as a player but he joins the “CUNT” list with Provan walker and burley .I hope the club are well aware of his constant jibes about club and hope they are taking steps to make sure he’s never at Celtic park again in any official capacity.

  • 8 December, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    I loved the guy when he played with Celtic, I remember him saying he was coming here to help put rangers in their place, if my mind serves me right that caused a furore in the press and he hadn’t even played yet. It must be in their contracts that they must put the boot in at every opportunity. Brilliant article again James.

  • 8 December, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Even in the far from certain eventuality that Sevco get into the Premiership for the first time in 2015, failure to qualify or yet another admin/liqui happening is still a distinct possibility, the team and management is so shite that there is no possibility of the league being more competitive.

    It’s taking them all their time to get by the likes of Cowdenbeath and they are getting pumped by Alloa, so do me a favour.

    Celtic is light years ahead.
    Our competition will continue to come from Aberdeen and D.U.

    The zombies are the castrati of Scottish football and nothing is going to sew their nads back on.

  • 8 December, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Another great article .I was just wondering,was he that short of a bob or two that he had to sell his soul to the devil.It’s one thing to be declared bankrupt financially,it’s another to be declared morally bankrupt !! There have been guys who have pulled on the hoops down the years who would have achieved legendary status but instead made the cardinal error of betraying the lifeblood of Celtic FC…..us,the fans !! I’ve heard it all before from these badge kissing mercenaries but I thought Sutton really was one of us that day in May 2003 when he aired his opinion regarding Dunfermline’s capitulation to the forces of darkness.How wrong can one be. I suppose they have to put food on their tables somehow but does it have to be succulent lamb every time !! Tal

  • 10 December, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    James, find your article somewhat of a witchunt against big Sutty who in my eyes will always be a player THAT GRACED THE HOOPS.

    He is no different from Walker, Provan, or Nicklaus to name only three.

    The memories he left us from his first beautiful goal against DU to his CL exploits with Henrik not to mention battering the hun with his EPL skills.

    SUTTON has earned his right to speak out, he will never just be a guy who used to play with us.

    Afraid matey you are well out of order and JUST ANOTHER GUY WHO SUPPORTS CELTIC.


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