The Bradford City midfielder signed for the Sulphurites on a one-month loan deal from previous club Scunthorpe United at the start of 2018-19 – the North Yorkshire outfit’s first-ever in the National League.
His game-time was limited to three short substitute appearances totalling just 13 minutes, however he quickly realised that he had been parachuted into a group of players destined for better things.
The season after Sutton’s fleeting spell with Harrogate, they secured a second promotion in the space of 27 months, sealing their place in League Two for 2020-21.
“It was definitely brief, but to be fair, I enjoyed my time there,” he recalled.
“There were some good lads there and a lot of them are still there from when I went on loan.Jack Muldoon is a Scunthorpe lad as well, he lives in the next village to my mum.
“They’ve got a lot of good characters there, a lot of lads who have been together a long time, some good players who have come through the leagues together, so I could see the potential when I was there.
“I knew then that they could play at a higher level. They’ve got that bond, that team spirit as well and that nack of winning games, so it doesn’t surprise me.”
This afternoon will see Sutton and his current team-mates go head-to-head with his old colleagues for the second time this season, the Bantams looking to avenge a 1-0 loss at Valley Parade back in October.
Harrogate were better than City in most departments that night, though it was the desire and intensity in their play that really stood-out in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
The way that the visitors performed came as absolutely no surprise to Sutton, who says he knows what Town are all about, and that Bradford cannot afford to be outworked and out-fought by their opponents this time around.
He added: “I know exactly what their game is going to be. They’re a hard-working side. That’s what they’re good at. That is what got them promoted and brought them success, so I know it is going to be a tough game.
“The first game we played against them, I felt like they took it more personally than us and then probably got the upper hand.
“I knew what the game was going to be like and I spoke to Stuart McCall. I knew a few of the lads and I knew it was going to be a game like that, I knew they would work their socks off and it was exactly that.
“It’s alright Harrogate being up for it, we need to be up for it as well.”
Another man in the Bantams’ camp who knows a thing or two about Harrogate is joint manager Conor Sellars, a Town player under Simon Weaver during the 2013-14 campaign.
The 29-year-old has spoken about his previous boss in glowing terms during the build-up to this afternoon’s fixture, admitting that the way the long-serving Sulphurites chief “lived and breathed” National League North management impressed him.
Thus, Sellars has some inside knowledge of how Weaver operates behind the scenes, but, given that almost seven years have passed since he last played a game for the North Yorkshire club, he doesn’t know how much of an edge that will provide him this weekend.
However, just like Sutton, he is certain that City are in for a tough examination at the EnviroVent Stadium, particularly when they are in possession of the football.
“I guess it [time spent working with Weaver] gives me a little bit of an insight into how they’re going to approach it, but obviously people evolve over time.
“I’m sure Simon has changed and the people around the club have changed because the club is of a bigger stature now,” Sellars said.
“I’m sure they’ll be very hard-working, they’ll be honest and we’ve got to be prepared for a really big game.
“They offer you loads of threats, they’re very dynamic. It’s gonna be a tough game, they’ve got some really good players.
“I think it’s going to be entertaining, I think it’s probably going to be feisty.
“They’ll be up for it and wanting to beat us twice in a season.
“They are aggressive, on the front foot, up and at you, so we’ll being doing our prep to make sure that we can come out on top on the day.”
Meanwhile, Harrogate chief Weaver confirmed that former Bradford striker Jon Stead has played himself into contention to start against his old team this lunchtime.
Following three months out in the cold where he did not even make it as far as a match-day squad, injury to Aaron Martin saw the veteran striker recalled to the Sulphurites’ bench for last weekend’s trip to Bolton Wanderers.
Having made a big impression during the final half-an-hour of that game and twice come close to scoring, the 38-year-old former Premier League was star thrown in from the start against Leyton Orient in midweek.
He was among Town’s top performers on the night and thus, Weaver says that Stead – who played for City between 2014 and 2015 – has every chance of keeping his spot in the starting XI for the upcoming showdown with the Bantams.
“Steady was brilliant again, he’s so, so talented,” the Harrogate manager said.
“He has really stood out for me in terms of what I’ve seen as a professional. I didn’t know if Jon could play 90 minutes, but he’s played 94 in the end.
“He’ll have eyes on Bradford City now and even beyond that, he’ll be looking at Wembley won’t he, playing like that, he is in contention.”
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