NO-ONE should reasonably have to defend their decision to refuse a 50 per cent pay cut and instead find gainful employment elsewhere.
But in the emotive business of a football club going into administration, that is the situation John Sutton finds himself in after opting to leave Hearts and return to Motherwell where he has penned a two-year contract.
The English striker is upset at how his actions have been portrayed in certain quarters, almost as if he is a villain of the piece while several other Hearts players have been lauded for accepting the salary reduction as part of administrators BDO’s bid to rescue the Tynecastle club.
Sutton insists Hearts only wished to retain his services once the scale of their financial crisis started to become apparent, having earlier informed him he would be surplus to requirements. He says he owes a debt of gratitude to Hearts supporters but that moving to Fir Park was the right choice for both his family and his career.
“At the end of the season I was told I was in the plans at Hearts,” said the 29-year-old. “Administration was on the horizon, but I was looking forward to a new season with the club and I felt under Gary Locke things were starting to pick up.
“But a week or so later my representative got a call. He was told I wasn’t wanted anymore and it would be better if I found a new club. It wasn’t nice. I asked him to call the club back to check, because it was contrary to what I’d heard a little while earlier. But it was confirmed that I wasn’t wanted.
“Then there was the transfer embargo and administration and it all changed again. I spoke to Gary Locke and he told me what was on the table for me. I spoke to a few people and told them it wasn’t for me. There had been a good chance of me coming to Motherwell earlier, when I’d been told by Hearts I wasn’t wanted. I’m very fortunate to end up at such a good place as Fir Park.
“I can’t say that if things had remained as they were at Hearts and I was in the plans, that I’d definitely have stayed. But I was clearly told I wasn’t needed at the club.
“I don’t want to get into ‘he said this’ and ‘he said that’ and then they come back at me. What I’d like to get across is that the big thing from my point of view was that I wasn’t in the plans. It was upsetting for a few days.
“My agent spoke to various people at the club and was told I wasn’t in the plans. My mindset went from being positive at the end of the season and having another year on my contract at Hearts, to feeling I’d be better off somewhere else.
“It changed again with the administration. All thoughts of moving had to be put aside for a couple of weeks. In the end, I could have stayed there, there was an offer made. But I decided to take the gamble of going elsewhere. Because of what had happened earlier, we knew there was a bit of interest.
“I will always feel indebted to the Hearts fans who treated me well. If they hadn’t put their hands in their pockets for the share issue last year, I’d never have got the chance to play in a League Cup final which, even though we lost, was a career highlight for me.
“The Hearts supporters deserve a lot better than what they have got. I lived in a street full of Hearts fans and they ploughed money into a share issue which is now worthless.
“They also turned up for fundraisers and put their cash in. Now they are being asked to do it again.
“The Hearts fans were good to me. There will always be people with another opinion but I know I gave my best throughout my time there.
“I had the option to stay, but I had to be true to myself and my family. I don’t go on fans websites or anything like that, but if some of them want to feel a bit hard done by after me leaving, then I won’t complain.”
Sutton, who points out that his departure has allowed Hearts to fund the retention of defender Danny Wilson’s services, believes Locke and his remaining players can overcome adversity to retain their top flight status in the forthcoming campaign.
“They are going to go into the season with a bit of a siege mentality, 15 points down, but they have a lot of very good young players there,” added Sutton. “I really enjoyed playing for the manager. There’s no reason why they can’t turn it around and stay up. The future can be really bright for them.
“I hope someone takes over who has a real care and passion for the club. The Foundation of Hearts are looking to buy the club and if they don’t get it, hopefully it will be someone who will really get behind the club and give it a big push. It is a good club.”
Sutton is now relishing the prospect of his second stint with Motherwell where he will be replacing last season’s top scorer Michael Higdon as the main striker for Stuart McCall’s side.
“He was brilliant here for the last two years as were a lot of other players who have moved on this summer,” said Sutton. “It’s up to the boys who are now here to try and perform at the same level. My last game for Motherwell was the 2011 Scottish Cup final which we lost and we also missed out on the Europa League group stage that season. Hopefully we can go that bit further this time.”