Why Sutton decided to sever Lincs

By Martin Samuel, October 7, 2010
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Amid the hurly-burly of Liverpool's swift demise, Nigel de Jong's tackle and perhaps a change in the identity of the England captain before Tuesday's match with Montenegro, the resignation of the manager of Lincoln City did not attract many column inches.

Chris Sutton won only 14 of his 50 league games in charge at Sincil Bank and was not a popular figure with supporters. It was after more criticism following a goalless draw with Burton Albion that he announced his decision to leave, citing personal reasons. The fans were delighted but the directors horrified. Knowing the obvious limitations of Lincoln City, whose ground has a capacity of just over 10,000, they thought Sutton was doing a decent job.

And they knew something else, too. Sutton didn't need it. He played for the Blackburn Rovers team that won the Premier League title, he played for Chelsea, made a successful move to Celtic. He certainly wasn't with Lincoln City for the money, but the challenge. And when the personal cost of that outweighed the enjoyment of working, he got out: because he could.

I used to work with a guy, an executive at a national newspaper, whose ambition in life was to generate what he called 'f*** you money.' I didn't take it personally. It wasn't me he was looking to tell 'f*** you' anyway, it was them, our bosses. And not unless they annoyed him, either, because he seemed to quite enjoy his job. He just wanted enough in the bank not to have to put up with any nonsense. If he didn't like the way the job was going, he wanted the freedom to be able to walk. And one day he had, and did.

Every modern day footballer of renown and as a title winner north and south of the border Sutton was certainly that now has FU money. That does not mean pride and ambition are no longer motivating factors for them, more that they do not have to put up with the same old nonsense as before. There have been 17 managers of Lincoln City in the last 20 years. Some will have been lousy, some outstanding, some doing a fair job in trying circumstances, but most will have needed the salary. They are a new breed, though, these former Premier League footballers because they have earned financial independence and no longer have to be anybody's Aunt Sally.

At one time, beleaguered bosses would walk dejectedly to the dressing room catcalls ringing loud, shaking their heads and muttering "I don't need this." But they quite literally did. It was a statement of frustration and powerlessness.

Now the same four words can be uttered to the chairman after the game as an ultimatum, or a goodbye. Kevin Keegan, the first millionaire footballer, realised the power of independent wealth when he quit Newcastle United (the first time) claiming the job was not as advertised in the brochure.

Promises and love for the club coaxed him back, but Sutton had no deep ties to low profile Lincoln City and it showed. He is not the first of his enriched generation to depart in this way and he will not be the last.

    Last updated: 5:14pm, October 7 2010