As he himself puts it, Chris Sutton lives in a “backwater”. But the former Celtic striker rubs shoulders with the great and good in his role as a football pundit and he is walking even taller at present.
He reports Celtic’s performance against Manchester City has done Scottish football a mighty service. Although he was capped once by England and still lives in his native Norfolk, Sutton is loyal to the Scottish game, where he enjoyed perhaps the most productive spell of his career.
The striker played Champions League football with Celtic, where he also won three league titles. So this connection is one reason why he thrilled to their performance against Manchester City in the recent 3-3 draw which transfixed the watching television audience as well as those inside the ground.
But with eyes set to turn towards Celtic Park again tomorrow night against Borussia Monchengladbach, BT Sport’s Scottish football expert is amused that Brendan Rodgers’ side reminded viewers south of the Border that Scotland isn’t the footballing version of Sutton’s rural “backwater” of East Anglia.
“I said on the night, and I stand by it, people were saying down south Manchester City could go the whole season unbeaten and when you think of all the money in the Premier League, it took a team north of the Border to derail them,” said Sutton, pictured right. “I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“When you look at the crowds last season, and then you look at this game being a sell-out, and the interest generated, and the hope and excitement, people are now turning up knowing they will be entertained.
“That’s down to the recruitment. People want a [Scott] Sinclair, a [Moussa] Dembele, a [Kolo] Toure. It is brilliant for Scottish football.
“In my opinion, that one result against Manchester City – and remember, I only live in a backwater! – transformed the way people I know think about Scottish football. It was an eye-opener.
“That can only be a good thing. The bottom line is, Celtic and the Scottish clubs don’t have the benefit of the cash.”
The Englishman is making a name for himself as outspoken and he isn’t scared to tell it the way it is – even if he risks biting the hand that feeds him. Recruited by BBC 5 Live to cover Sunday’s Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Watford, he wasn’t impressed by what he saw.
“If that was a Scottish game, it would be getting utterly panned,” he said. “It was utter garbage. And they have all this money to spend.”
“Talk about punching above their weight, Celtic have certainly done that,” he continued. “And for all the negative stuff last season – and I had my say on that – when things are good we should come and say we are proud of a team for performing that way. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“When the game is on the up, which it is at the moment up here, we should be pleased with that,” he added.
The nation’s attention will again be grabbed by goings on at Celtic Park, where more than 50,000 home supporters and a few thousand from Germany will combine to produce another explosive atmosphere.
While there is no guarantee the 90 minutes will match the entertainment on offer the last time the Champions League theme music was heard at Celtic Park, it is almost certain to be better than Middlesbrough v Watford – and a host of other supposed “Super Sunday” clashes.
Sutton was tickled by the reaction of his fellow pundits after the Manchester City clash. One in part icular, perhaps because of his Manchester United leanings as much as anything, was especially animated. “One or two pundits were happy,” he said. “I don’t want to name names...Rio [Ferdinand]. I think the whole night, everyone got caught up in the atmosphere.
“It’s all great pre-kick-off. For that game, anyone you got tickets for, you say make sure you are there pre-kick-off because it’s unbelievable.
“With the greatest will in the world, you then think Celtic might get thumped by Manchester City. But the performance and the crowd went with them all night, we haven’t seen a night like that for years.
“That’s what Celtic will be looking to repeat on Wednesday. Although it’s a lesser team in the way the fans view it, it will be a real test. These are not duds. Borussia are a well organised and slick outfit.
“Celtic will have to be at their best on another hard night, but the players will know that.”
The last time Celtic played a Champions League fixture against a German side at Parkhead, 13 years ago, Sutton was used in an advanced midfield role. There was nothing between them and Bayern Munich in the first game, which finished 0-0. But a goalkeeper slip cost them in the return in the Olympic Stadium, with a 1-0 lead turned into a 2-1 defeat late on.
“I remember the 0-0 at Parkhead and in the away one Alan Thompson scored early and then Magnus Hedman had a bit of a nightmare, didn’t he?” recalled Sutton. “And then Martin O’Neill hairdriered him afterwards – and that’s my memory.”
It was a reminder of Scottish football’s then standing that Celtic could be so furious at losing a clash against Bayern Munich by a single goal after matching them over 180 minutes.
But Sutton expressed hope such times have returned when Celtic can hope to gain a profitable result against German visitors. While they might not be as feared as Bayern Munich, Borussia Monchengladbach are more than capable of bursting Celtic’s bubble.
But Sutton believes that if Celtic are to secure European football beyond Christmas, then much rests on tomorrow.
“I don’t think it’s a must-win but I think it’s a must-not-lose because looking at the head-to-head with Borussia Monchengladbach [it’s] the one you’d pick out [over Manchester City and Barcelona].
“So it’s about going again against a lesser team, with the greatest of respect to Borussia Monchengladbach. But there is a lot of danger in saying that because they are still a really good outfit.”
l BT Sport is your home of unmissable live football from the Uefa Champions League, SPFL and BetFred League Cup. Watch Celtic v Borussia Monchengladbach in the Uefa Champions League exclusively live on BT Sport ESPN this Wednesday from 7pm.