Scottish football officially returns this weekend with the opening matches of the Betfred Cup, the competition shown exclusively by broadcasters BT Sport.
That means we shall soon see a return of this nation’s favourite Marmite pundit. The man people love to hate and hate to love. The one, the only, Mr Chris Sutton.
Derek Rae may be gone from BT Sport but there are high hopes for replacement Rory Hamilton, and with Sutton still in their arsenal, BT Sport should still provide bags of entertainment next term.
Here’s a look back at five of Sutton’s highlights from last season.
The “horrendous” Rangers centre-backs
It was simple, it was effective and, do you know what, it was completely spot-on.
Sutton was asked a quick question before the conclusion of BT Sport’s coverage of Kilmarnock 1 - 1 Rangers. Are Celtic favourites for the upcoming Old Firm clash? “Yes.” And why is that? “Because Rangers centre-halves are horrendous.” For any Rangers fan watching, it would have been an incongruous comment. Pundits don’t usually go in two-footed like that in criticism of a club or their players. Even if they believe someone to be horrendous, they tend to give it the softly softly version like, “Rangers need to be better at the back”. For an ex-Celtic player to say it made the comment all the more jarring for the Ibrox faithful watching on. There were many complaints.
So what happened next? Celtic defeated their rivals 5-1 at Parkhead. Controversial? Yes. Wrong? No.
It also inspired this perfect meme.
His on-air takedown of Derek Johnstone
“He’s an apologist, he’s a charlatan, he’s a Rangers puppet. He’s a cheerleader, that’s what he is.”
Rarely, if ever, do you hear one prominent Scottish football pundit blast another in such a withering fashion. This isn’t a big nation and most of the talk is centred around one city, so it doesn’t often pay to make enemies. Therefore, it was quite shocking to hear Sutton go after Derek Johnstone in such a fashion.
What make it even more engrossing was the fact that Sutton was telling this direct to Johnstone, having called into Clyde’s Superscoreboard programme in order to defend his controversial approach to punditry.
Johnstone was similarly scathing in his opinion of Sutton, saying he was “disgusted” with himself for even engaging his opponent in conversation, but if we’re judging this bout on points then the victory definitely goes to the challenger.
Craigan loses the rag
With the exception of Derek Rae, who is unflappable, and Darrell Currie, who definitely enjoys Sutton’s no-nonsense approach, the rest of the BT Sport panel have lost the rag with the outspoken Englishman at one time or another. One panelist who’s succumbed to his fishing rod on multiple occasions is Stephen Craigan, and there is no better example of this than when Sutton insinuated that Craigan’s less-than-positive opinion of newly appointed Hearts boss Ian Cathro was fuelled by jealousy. A clearly irate Craigan insisted his never wanted Cathro’s job as steam began emanating from his ears. When watching the clip back, keep an eye on the uncomfortable Alan Stubbs, who made a habit of being the nonplussed extra in some of Scottish football’s more iconic moments from last season.
Sutton would later call Cathro critics “morons”. He perhaps wasn’t as right with this one as he was with the Rangers defence.
The talking head
With each new campaign, Sutton has one particular underachieving manager in his sights. In season 2015/16, it was Ronny Deila. Last term, it was Mark Warburton.
When Warburton eventually left Ibrox in complicated circumstances, our hero simply could not wait for the next BT Sport broadcast to give his take on the divorce. Broadcasting to his 80,000 Twitter followers live from his own home, Sutton continued his criticism of the now-former Rangers boss, saying he’d worn a “dunces hat” rather than a magic one. He then followed this up the very next morning after it became apparent Warburton was unwilling to go quietly, filming another shoot live from his car.
Quite frankly, the only negative aspect of this was that we didn’t get more off-the-cuff Sutton broadcasts.
Getting kicked into the north sea
As the season progressed it became increasingly apparent Sutton was in on the joke. Whether this made things better or worse was up for debate.
It certainly painted him in a better light, but meant some of his comments lost a bit of their fire. However, without such recognition, we wouldn’t have had some of the great in-show segments put on by BT Sport where the panel got up to some hijinks - with Sutton often the fall guy. This included Terry Butcher bodying Sutton on the Tynecastle turf, Craigan receiving a custard pie to the face from his BT Sport nemesis and, arguably best of all, Craigan launching Sutton into the north sea with a Craig Gordon/Harald Schumacher-esque side-kick.
Say what you like about Scottish football, but do you ever think any of the prominent English Premier League panelists would be jovial enough to be dunked in the Thames? And they say our game is the inferior product.