Thankfully for Celtic Chris Sutton was a boyhood Nottingham Forest fan- watching Brian Clough at his peek in charge of Martin O’Neill, John Robertson, Peter Shilton, Trevor Francis, Archie Gemmill and Kenny Burns among others.
If it wasn’t for the Forest factor it is unlikely that the out of favour Chelsea striker would have made the move to Celtic. In the summer of 2000 Middlesbrough and Spurs were prepared to offer the former Blackburn title winner another chance in the EPL following his misery at Stamford Bridge.
Sutton could have sat on a huge contract at Chelsea but that wasn’t in his nature, he liked a scrap and challenge and found a manager of the same mindset in O’Neill who had arrived at Celtic from Leicester City with a rebuild job on his hands.
The stubborn nature of both men hit it off on the park but the initial meeting was far from mutual appreciation between the two men.
I met Martin O’Neill in a hotel in Beaconsfield. I could’ve gone to Spurs, could’ve gone to Middlesbrough with Bryan Robson who was the manager, and then I met Martin.
He actually sort of slaughtered us for five minutes but then he got us onside and basically told me how bad I was at Chelsea but that he’d followed my career closely and admired me. I was nearly sick when he said that!
He talked about his thoughts for Celtic, how they were building and he was going to bring players in and that I should give it a go.
I always liked Martin from afar, being a Nottingham Forest fan when I was little, I had followed him and his management past.
The next four years, in the company of Henrik Larsson were probably the most memorable and successful that O’Neill and Sutton had ever experienced.