He spent 17 years plying his trade the length and breath of the country but John Sutton says a loan spell at Dundee was what got his career off the ground in Scotland.
Sutton scored eight goals in 35 appearances for the Dark Blues on loan from Millwall for the 2004/05 SPL season before going on to enjoy success with the likes of St Mirren, Hearts and Motherwell.
The 36-year-old Englishman, last with Morton, has hung up his boots for the second time in recent years and, reflecting on his playing days, looks back on his time at Dens Park with fondness.
The former Raith and St Johnstone striker said: “I played the first half of the season pretty regularly and did quite well but in the second half Fabian Caballero signed back up again so I didn’t get that much game time.
“That was really disappointing but it was a good experience. That was my first time in the Scottish top flight, playing Celtic and Rangers, but the games that always stood out for me were the Dundee derbies.
“Even in the Championship last season you saw it. You don’t realise how big a game and how much it means to people until you play in one.
“I learned a lot from my time there and it only helped my development as a player.
“You always pick up something from each club you go to. Raith was the first time I’d played regular first-team football – it was fantastic.
“That got me my move to Millwall and I played a few games there but I didn’t start learning all the time until I got to Dundee, playing in the top league in Scotland.
“It certainly set me up well and I ended up at St Mirren the next season and had a really successful time there.”
The Dee were relegated on the final day of the campaign at Livingston but Sutton, who cites scoring winners in two Dundee derbies as his high points, feels Jim Duffy’s team should’ve fared better.
He continued: “It was a sort of mixed bag because, obviously, we ended up relegated at the end of the season.
“That wasn’t nice but, looking back, knowing Scottish football like I do it doesn’t surprise me.
“Livingston, with the players they signed at the time, were stronger than us.
“It ended in disappointment but I was really lucky to get to play in some great games.
“I managed to score two winners in Dundee derbies, which was absolutely unbelievable.
“That was a fantastic experience and I played with some really good players.
“It was hugely disappointing at the end of the year to go down because we were trying to come out of administration and we had some really good players there.
“It was just a shame we never managed to do it at the end because we should’ve stayed up.
“I played up front with Stevie Lovell, who was a great player, we had Garry Brady, Barry Smith, Derek Soutar and Steven Robb – it was a great group of players.
“Sometimes you play for teams and you feel you overachieve but with that particular team, we could’ve done better than what we did.
“In fairness, the league was very strong that particular season which didn’t make it any easier but I still think with the quality we had there we could and should’ve stayed up.
“It’s not nice when you’re relegated but I guess, from a general interest point of view, that’s where the split works really well.
“As soon as you get there every game is a six-pointer.
“There was plenty to play for but, unfortunately, we had a fantastic record in Dundee derbies going into it and we lost a pretty crucial one before getting relegated on the final day.
“That was a real sickener after being so close to staying up.”
Coming from down south, Norwich-born Sutton knew little about Dundee or Scottish football, beyond what brother and Celtic legend Chris told him.
However, the former Tottenham kid says he quickly took the city and its footballing culture to his heart.
He added: “I knew there was a big rivalry because of watching the games on the telly but the thing I was probably naïve about was the atmosphere.
“Obviously, I never played at Celtic or Rangers with 60,000 at Parkhead or 50,000 at Ibrox but they were the two teams I was looking for initially.
“Then, second game of the season we’re playing at Tannadice and it’s like ‘wow this is some atmosphere’.
“The people are right on top of you and there was just so much passion about that game. It was a phenomenal experience.
“There probably isn’t an appreciation of how passionate and well-supported the two Dundee clubs are.
“Everyone thinks about the Old Firm and the Edinburgh derby but the Dundee derby is a brilliant occasion as well.
“Another thing that was nice was the squad all lived in Dundee. I had a flat in Broughty Ferry and all the players and fans were local.
“You got a feel for the place walking about the town, doing your shopping and you don’t see that so much now with a lot of players opting to stay in Glasgow or Edinburgh and travelling through.”
Despite only spending one term with the Dark Blues, Sutton keeps a keen eye on their results and feels they’re set for a tough campaign when the Championship returns on October 17.
He explained: “The squad of players Dundee have is really good but it’s a strange league the Championship.
“In my time, we didn’t have so many part-time teams but now you see Alloa and Arbroath doing well and Hearts will be in there challenging Dundee – two big clubs.
“Come the end of the season there’ll be a couple of teams very disappointed to not get out of the league.”