Chris Sutton on Celtic, England and Larsson v Shearer
The former Norwich, Blackburn, Chelsea and Celtic striker joined the lads on the Football Show22:08 Thursday 8 February 2018, 22:08 8 Feb 2018
It's fair to say Chris Sutton had a varied, eventful career in football.
Not many players these days can say they found success at home and abroad for Blackburn Rovers and Celtic, but as a Premier League winner in 1995 and a UEFA Cup finalist in 2003 he's experienced the biggest moments of the last 40 odd years at both clubs.
On top of that he thrived under the advent of 4-4-2 football in the 1990s, striking up fearsome partnerships with Alan Shearer and Henrik Larsson down the years.
Sutton joined Nathan and Kevin on tonight's Football Show discussing a range of issues from his career, and naturally a comparison between his two fellow strikers was bound to come up.
So who was better?
"Alan was ruthless. A brilliant finisher. But if you're asking who's the better all-round footballer, Henrik Larsson was the best footballer I played with. He could do everything. You would say that Alan was a number 9 but Henrik could play across any of the three positions across the front."
Chris Sutton alongside Celtic teammate and friend of the show John Hartson
A ringing endorsement indeed considering Shearer's goalscoring exploits at Blackburn and Newcastle look set to stand for a few years to come. Of course the primary criticism labelled at Larsson throughout his career was the standard of football he was coming up against in Scotland, but Sutton thinks that's a criticism that doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
"He scored a barrel-load of goals for the Swedish national team. Stepped up on the European nights for Celtic, and then when he went to Barcelona he turned the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal on his head with two beautifully weighted passes, and that's what Henrik could do."
"Henrik had everything, he was a wonderfully natural finisher. Both himself and Shearer weren't the biggest of guys, but he had superb spring and he could see a pass and execute a pass. He was a real team player and we build up such a good partnership, I was able to understand how to play with him."
In a wide-ranging interview which you can listen to below, it's clear that Sutton still speaks of his days at Celtic with genuine pride.
"That was the best moment of my career. Knowing that you could go out on the pitch knowing whoever we played against, it didn't matter. We could dismantle teams all over Europe and we could dismantle Rangers."
Of course there was more to Celtic than just Larsson and Sutton in those days. The squad was filed with fan favourites like Bobe Balde and Stiliyan Petrov who are still fondly remembered by the Parkhead faithful.
"It was a good dressing room with a good manager. A lot of strong characters and it was a really exciting place to be, and what Martin achieved at Celtic was amazing really because Rangers had been so dominant. We put a marker down really early under Martin when we beat them 6-2, and although they beat us 5-1 at Ibrox the next time we played that gave us real belief. Then came the UEFA Cup run and European football and Martin built something special."
While it's clear Sutton's club career was filed with brilliant moments and highlight reels, his international career couldn't quite hit the same heights. Just once was the striker able to don the Three Lions shirt for the senior team, but Sutton is forthright when explaining what went wrong.
Chris Sutton playing for the England U21s during a European Championship qualifier
"I had a habit of shooting from the foot often in my career and saying what I thought at a particular time on the spur of the moment. I made my debut against Cameroon and I had played pretty well in the next two months before the next squad with Chile. But Glenn Hoddle who was the manager left me out and put me in the 'B' squad. So I phoned him up, stupidly, and told him what I thought of the decision. But looking back, what was I thinking? I had no right to do that."
"You had Shearer, Sheringham, Les Ferdinand, Ian Wright, Robbie Fowler, Andy Cole, Stan Collymore, Dion Dublin, and Michael Owen had burst onto the scene. So there was so much competition for places. Would I have liked to have played more? Of course. But the truth is when it came to the major tournaments there were players ahead of me in the pecking order. That's the way it goes but it still doesn't get away from the fact that I didn't behave in the correct manner."
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