HEARTS striker John Sutton has first-hand knowledge of the talent available at Tottenham Hotspur - as a trainee there a decade ago he could not even hold down a place in the reserve team.
Although that was no disgrace at a time when the likes of Sergei Rebrov and Les Ferdinand were playing for the Spurs second string, it does hint at the gulf in quality between the London club and Hearts, who meet in the first leg of their Europa League play-off tie at Tynecastle on Thursday.
Sutton, however, reckons that Scottish football can at times be too self-critical, especially when it comes to comparisons with English opposition. "Not everyone, but Scottish people tend to be quite pessimistic, whereas the English press seem to be optimistic," the striker said after scoring his first goals as a Hearts player in Saturday's 3-0 win against Aberdeen. "It's going to be incredibly difficult for us to get a result against them, (but] it ends up as 11 bodies against 11 bodies.
"If it was Celtic or Rangers I don't think anyone would expect them to get hammered - they've acquitted themselves very well in Europe. It's difficult for us because apart from possibly this match we haven't really played in a good rhythm, and there has been change at the club. But it's 11 against 11, we've got a fantastic crowd behind us, and there's no reason we shouldn't give a good account of ourselves."
Conventional wisdom is that players who return to a club which has let them go have a point to prove, with many nurturing a sense of grievance about the way they were treated. Sutton, however, knows his own career only really took off after leaving White Hart Lane,and even at the time did not see his release as a blow.
"I was actually quite excited," he remembered. "I was trying to play in a reserve team where Rebrov and Ferdinand were playing. I wanted to get out and get playing in proper football. I found it disheartening - I'd scored a lot of goals for the youth team and I scored a couple for the reserves as well, but there didn't seem to be any way through. So in many ways it was a little bit of a relief to leave there and try and make a name for myself." He will certainly make a name for himself beyond the confines of the SPL if he scores either on Thursday or in the return leg a week later, and knows that when he travels to London with the Hearts squad there will not be too many home supporters who know he used to play for their club. "I played under George Graham then Glenn Hoddle. There were just so many players there - I would doubt they would remember me very well. At the time I didn't appreciate how good it probably was for me."