One of the lesser-known promotion stories coming out of the 2020-21 campaign was of Sutton United. Playing in the National League, which is the fifth tier of English football, Sutton gained promotion to EFL League Two thanks to their first place finish. In doing so, Sutton have reached the Football League for the first time in the club’s 123-year history.
Sutton United History
The club was formed in 1898 when Sutton Guild Rovers F.C. and Sutton Association F.C. agreed to merge. After years in the junior leagues, Sutton United became a senior side in 1910 and actually won the Southern Suburban League the very first year they joined.
After spending several decades between the Athenian League and the Isthmian League (1922-1986), Sutton first earned promotion to the National League (then the Football Conference) for the 1986-87 season.
The club did suffer relegation back to the Isthmian League in 1991, and their return to the Conference did not happen until they won the Isthmian League in 1999, only to be relegated the following season.
Sutton were chosen to be founding members of the newly formed Conference South for the 2004-05 season, but once again, were relegated back to the Isthmian League after four seasons finishing no higher than 13th.
After winning a fifth Isthmian League championship in 2010-11, Sutton once again were back up in the Conference South. In 2015-16, the Conference South was renamed the National League South. That season, Sutton United had a 25-match unbeaten streak and were crowned champions and promoted to the National League.
Sutton spent the last five seasons in the National League, with a first place finish in 2020-21 after placing 15th in the previous Covid-19 shortened campaign.
Sutton United Nickname
Sutton United Mascot
‘Jenny’ the giraffe first appeared as a Sutton supporter in 2009, and is one of the very few female mascots.
Sutton secured promotion to League Two by winning the National League with 84 points.
Sutton United Stadium
Sutton’s home games are played at Gander Green Lane, which is officially known as the Borough Sports Ground and opened in 1912. The current capacity is listed at 7,032.
The main Grandstand was built in 1951, and has been altered through the years. The stand’s red and blue seats, which are not Sutton’s team colors, were donated by Chelsea when Stamford Bridge was remodeled.
The stadium has a FIFA 2-Star quality playing surface, FIFA’s highest rating for 3G artificial surfaces. But that will all change ahead of playing in League Two in 2021-22.
The Price of Promotion
Sutton will be forced to rip up their five-year-old all-weather 3G playing surface at Gander Green Lane, and must replace it with natural grass to satisfy Football League rules. Artificial surfaces have been banned from the EFL since 1995.
It is estimated the club will lose £500,000 ($709,500) on the installation of grass. The club earns £200,000 ($283,800) per year for the community use of the artificial playing surface. Sutton will also be forced to find an additional training ground for all of their teams, as they will be unable to train on the game day field.
During the 2020-21 season, EFL officials told Sutton United they could have a temporary ground-share with another club to secure the new playing surface if they went up via the playoffs. Since Sutton were crowned champions, the race is on to grow grass for the August kickoff.
A mural to commemorate Craig Dundas’ 400th appearance for the club in a 2–0 home win over Dartford on January 23, 2016 can be seen on the side of a terrace next to Rose’s Tea Hut (a food stand named for the lady who operated it for over four decades). It shows Dundas celebrating a goal with the number “400” in bold black letters.
Sutton United: FA Cup ‘Giant Killers’
Sutton have had some memorable games in the FA Cup.
In spite of the much lesser capacity, around 14,000 fans crammed into Gander Green Lane for a 1970 fourth round FA Cup match with Leeds United.
In 1989, Sutton hosted top division Coventry City in front of a sellout crowd of 8,000 fans, and the upset (2-1) was one of the biggest in FA Cup history. Coventry had won the Cup just two years earlier.
Sutton reached the fifth round of the FA Cup in 2016-17 beating higher-division foes Cheltenham Town, AFC Wimbledon and Leeds United. They were knocked out that year at home to Arsenal (2-0). Sutton were only the ninth non-League club to reach the fifth round since 1945. Going into that game, Sutton were 17th in the National League and Arsenal were fourth in the Premier League, 105 places apart on the English leagues pyramid.
Sutton United Rivalries
Sutton’s top rival is Carshalton Athletic, as both clubs are located within the London Borough of Sutton. The teams have faced off in three different leagues and in 12 different cup competitions. They have met 133 times (most recently in 2011), with Sutton holding 72 wins.
Sutton also shares close proximity to AFC Wimbledon, and Sutton were the Dons’ first-ever opponent in 2002. They have never been in the same league together, but their matchups are dubbed the ‘friendly derby’.
What Else to Do in Sutton
Sutton is located in South London on the lower slopes of the North Downs. Sutton Library is the largest library in the borough and the region is also home to four conservation areas. Crime levels are among the lowest in London, and Sutton High Street is the sixth-most important shopping area in London.
The Rolling Stones were first spotted at the Red Lion pub (now called the Winning Post) located on Sutton High Street. The band started playing there in 1963 where they were signed. In 2011, the Winning Post was added to a list of buildings and structures of local significance.