House of Payne: Sutton's financial model should be applauded
It is that time of year when the clips of Matt Hanlan clipping the ball into the net and wheeling his arm in celebration come out again.
You may not recognise the name but you will know what I am talking about when the clip gets played over the festive period as preview material for the third round of the FA Cup.
It is one of the competition’s most iconic moments from the day when Sutton United beat Coventry City in 1989, just 18 months after the Sky Blues had lifted the trophy thanks to an equally-never-to-be-forgotten 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Sadly, Sutton will not be in this year’s third round draw and the romance of the cup, which was a shade lacking in the 2-0 home defeat by Notts County, was non-existent when United revealed how they would spend their cash from this year’s run.
Chairman Bruce Elliott said the cash could be spent in five minutes but needed to be spent on what was most important for the club: “It is no secret we need some new toilets.”
Manager Paul Doswell can wait for his new striker then although, judging by the recent 4-3 triumph over Welling at Gander Green Lane, when they came back from 2-1 and 3-2 down, something to plug the leaks may be more necessary than a centre forward.
Whatever the jokes and puns (own up? who wrote Sutton Loo-nited?) it has to be said that United have been a model of financial caution for many years.
As long ago as the turn of the century, while Kingstonian were chasing the dream of a place in the Football League and making annual trips to Wembley, Sutton seemed relatively unambitious despite spending a season in the Conference.
But Ks had pushed the boat out too far. A horrible balance sheet saw them seeking investment from outside but the downward spiral continued with Rajesh Khosla’s fleeting ownership of the club leaving the club without a ground as well.
What a contrast with Sutton, who were never going to go down the pan (that’s the last awful pun, honest), under the careful auspices of Elliott, the much-loved late board member Barry Aplin and the other businessmen most definitely with the best interests of their club at heart.
They may not have spent the most money, and they certainly don’t play in the most shiny new stadium, but it is a common sense approach that has served Sutton well and many clubs higher up the football ladder could learn a lot from.
It has particularly borne fruit under the inspiration leadership of Doswell who, remarkably, has taken Sutton to fifth in their debut season in Blue Square South after romping away with the Ryman Premier League last season.
But, as proved by Elliott’s continued practical approach, no one at Sutton will ever get ahead of themselves. And long may that continue.
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