Former Canaries star Chris Sutton pays tribute to his 'brilliant' father Mike
- Credit: Archant Library
Former Norwich City striker Chris Sutton has paid an emotional tribute to his father Mike who has died aged 76 after battling dementia.
Mike began his career with his local team Norwich City in 1962 before going on to play for Chester City and Carlisle United before he was forced to retire in 1972 due to injury.
The former City midfielder's death was announced on Sunday (December 27) by his son Chris, who played for the Canaries between 1991 and 1994.
Chris, who went onto play for Blackburn, Chelsea, Celtic, Birmingham and Aston Villa, has paid tribute to his dad and has vowed to keep fighting for change in the game in his father's name.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Chris said: "It wasn’t fair for my dad’s life to end in this way. Alone in a room in a world of his own, without any member of his family by his side.
"Over the last decade my proud dad has been stripped, slowly and piece by piece, of his dignity by dementia. I only hope and pray that somehow, when he was taking his final breaths, he knew how much people respected and thought of him, and how much his family and close friends loved him.
"He was a great sportsman but more importantly a brilliant teacher, dad and grandad. He gave maximum effort and attention to everything he was involved in and that’s what he expected of others."
He said, in his eyes, his father's "greatest achievement" was being a PE teacher at Hellesdon High School.
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"His goal was to educate his pupils on the importance of participating in sport — any sport — and the benefits it would have on your physical and mental health," he said. "He tamed the school rogues and got them to love sport. He knew how to get the best out of them."
But he said in the article that his dad didn't offer him preferential treatment, which he said served him well in later life.
Later in the piece, he said: "He took me to my first football game — somehow getting us tickets to the 1980 FA Cup final between West Ham and Arsenal at the old Wembley Stadium.
"He told me not to hire Eric Hall as my agent because being represented by a chap from the players’ union would be better for me. Had I not followed my dad’s advice on that, I might never have had the career I loved."
He described his father as a "devoted husband of 56 years" to wife Josephine. They first met in a Claremont Pier café in Lowestoft.
"A loving dad to Ian, Rachel, Lucy, myself and John, he and my mum brought us up in a village outside Norwich which was a bit like The Good Life. Goats, sheep, chicken, geese, fresh fruit and vegetables… my parents grew food because they wanted the best for us. They wanted us to have the right diet and live the outdoor life," he said.
"Outside of teaching, he loved local sport, playing football for Great Yarmouth Town and cricket for Drayton.
"One of his ex-Drayton team-mates and a former pupil, Tim Woods, is an undertaker. As you can imagine, dad and the team used to joke with Tim over his profession. It’s funny the way life works, because my dad is now being looked after by Tim.
"There are so many stories I could tell. In these last few years I have been campaigning with many other families whose loved ones have suffered and died in the same way as my dad Mike. We want a change which is needed and long overdue."
He wrote he was heartbroken he didn't get a chance to say goodbye.
"I can’t change this now," he said. "But my dad would want me to push for change for the better where dementia in football is concerned. I know for sure that he would have."
Mike represented Norwich City between 1963 and 1966, scoring three times in 54 appearances.
He is survived by wife Josephine, with whom he had two sons, Chris and John, who both followed in his footsteps as professional footballers.