WHEN you are looking for advice about a possible new job, being told by a family member that he hated the place you are thinking of going to is not usually a good sign. In the case of John Sutton, however, it was just the kind of endorsement he needed to persuade him to join Hearts.
Sutton, the 27-year-old striker who has left Motherwell to sign on at Tynecastle, asked his elder brother Chris what he thought of the move. Sutton senior, the former Celtic player, recalled what a tough venue it had been to play at, saying that the commitment of the home supporters, a major factor in that toughness, would work in favour of his brother if he accepted Jim Jefferies' offer.
"Chris told me that he hated playing at Tynecastle during his Celtic days because of the hostile atmosphere," John said yesterday after completing the move. "He told me the atmosphere was always intense at Tynecastle and that Hearts have always been the strongest team outwith the Old Firm, so I think on that basis it was always the trickiest place to come. That combined with the fact that the Hearts fans were pretty hostile - but it was a back-handed compliment, because Chris loved the challenge of playing here.
"As much as he didn't like playing here, he highly recommended me signing: he thought that it would be a good move. Plenty of people I've spoken to have said they would love to be in my position, and I realise I'm very lucky to be here and hopefully things go very well. I discussed a few things with Chris as there were a couple of other options down south, but when Hearts declared an interest my brother was all for me signing for this club. I spoke to Chris, my dad and a few players about this move and they all said the same thing: that if they had the chance to sign for Hearts they would not turn it down."
And of course different players respond to the Tynecastle atmosphere in different ways. For John, it was invigorating to be playing in front of a crowd three or four times larger than he was used to at Fir Park. "Chris might have hated playing against Hearts as a Celtic player, but as an opposition player I always found Tynecastle to be inspiring," he continued. "These are the places that you want to play your football in, and I'm sure I'll love it. When I was going over my options I was really pushing for the Hearts thing. Financially I might have done better down South, but I love playing in Scotland.
"You have the Old Firm rivalry and the Edinburgh derbies, and it's a tremendous place to play your football. I was delighted that Hearts actually got in touch with me, and in the end it was a very easy decision for me. Playing in front of 15,000 fans inside Tynecastle every other week is something that I am looking forward to doing, as the Hearts fans really get behind their team."
Sutton's last match as a Motherwell player was the Scottish Cup final, when defeat by Celtic meant the club would not be playing in European football next season. It also meant that Hearts will enter the Europa League in the third qualifying round, and Sutton hopes to go further in the competition with his new club than Motherwell were able to do. "My biggest regret with Motherwell was that, having played in the Europa League for three seasons on the bounce, we missed out on playing in the group stages of the competition. Last season we drew a Danish outfit (Odense] in the round before the group stages when we could have faced Manchester City or Roma. The Danes were no great shakes and over two legs we could have beaten them.
"If we get through to the group stages then you are guaranteed six really good games against some decent European opposition. We never quite managed that feat with Motherwell, but hopefully I can achieve that goal here with Hearts."
Motherwell did fare better than Hearts in the cup competitions, however, and that is one thing which Sutton plans to help change next season. "From a Hearts perspective the biggest disappointment would be that they did not go far in the cups. They wrapped up third place (in the SPL] and there is an element of luck involved in cup competitions in terms of the draw and you need to play well on the day. The league is an accurate reflection of how you have performed over the season. It would be great to win silverware with Hearts, though, as the hardest thing you can do in football is win any competition. I'm sure we will be up for a run in both cups this season.
"The Scottish Cup final was a huge disappointment for Motherwell last Saturday and this move has come about so quickly that I've hardly had time to mump and moan about the fact we lost - although my wife would tell you differently. I have to look to the future now and it would be great to get back to Hampden with Hearts in the not-too-distant future."