Club photographer Damon Campion has been speaking to 20-year-old former Iron youth product Levi Sutton about life as a footballer and away from the pitch.
Originally published in the Iron v Bolton Wanderers programme on 08/04/2017
Were you born in Scunthorpe then?
LS: Yes, I was born in Scunthorpe General Hospital.
LS: I’ve lived in East Butterwick all my life, which is just outside of Scunthorpe. I went to Gunness School at the start, which is a nursery, and then I used to get the bus and go to Messingham Primary School every day. After that, I went to Frederick Gough for secondary school.
How was East Butterwick as a kid?
LS: Very quiet.
There’s not a lot there is there?
LS: There’s just one road all the way down. I luckily lived right next to the park and there was a gate on our fence and I could just pop out the gate and go there. I just played football. My dad put a light from his garage onto the park as well, and we had two trees. We just played there all night.
Did you have lots of friends growing up?
LS: I had an older brother who brought all his older mates down. I was a lot younger and just played with them and got battered! When you want to play football, you just play though don’t you.
Did you enjoy your childhood?
LS: Yeah, I loved it. Even though I was gutted my mates lived in different places, I quite liked living in a quiet place. I had a best mate who lived two doors down and if we wanted to go to Messingham, we’d just jump on our bikes.
Did a lot of your mates live in Messingham then?
LS: They did. It was a bit gutting. I always said to my mum ‘I wish we could move’ but thinking about it now, it was the best place to live at the time. It was so quiet and you could do what you want really. There were parks next door to me too and I just got to play football.
How about family? Have you got any brothers or sisters?
LS: I have a massive family. I have three sisters and four brothers. I’m the third oldest so I’m a middle child.
You must have had a big house then?
LS: It was an average-sized house, but we just made do with bunk beds!
Where do your family originate from?
LS: I have a great grandad who is Italian and he moved over here and met my great grandma, and then the genes were passed down and that’s why I’ve got olive skin!
So your mum and dad were born over here then?
LS: My mum and dad were born in Scunny and so were my grandparents.
Do you have any relations in Italy?
LS: I don’t really know of any but I do know there are people over there who are related to me. It’s never really came to mind to ask about them though. Later on in life, when you want to play European football, you could go over to Italy and you never know.
You might be related to Totti or someone!
LS: When I was younger, I was asked about playing for Wales but never looked into it.
Did you? At what age was that?
LS: I went to AC Milan on a trip with Scunthorpe and came back, getting a phone call from some Welsh FA guy asking if I had any Welsh relations. My other mate played for Wales and passed my number to him. I couldn’t find any Welsh relations in the family though. At the time, I wasn’t too interested though, because I didn’t want to restrict my chances of playing for England.
LS: Yeah, exactly.
What does Levi Sutton do on his days off from training and playing football? How do you relax? Are you a music fan?
LS: I love a bit of Drake.
Of course, you’re a footballer. You all love Nando’s and Drake. It’s what you do!
LS: Haha, I play on the PlayStation 4 and X-Box too.
Are you a TV or box set kind of guy?
LS: I’m watching Peaky Blinders at the moment.
Are you a cook?
LS: Haha, when Mark Robins was here, he tried to get us to do cookery lessons because we couldn’t cook but that got bombed off in the end. I can’t cook, I’m absolutely terrible. My missus does all that. I just sit back and let her bring it to me.
What about travelling? Where is your favourite holiday destination?
LS: I’ve been everywhere. When I was younger, I think my mum took me to every Greek island there is. My mum told me a crazy story about when I was young and we were walking through a village. My dad was pushing my pram and all the people in the village were coming to me, thinking I was a local person because of my skin. This woman came up to my dad and asked ‘can I push your baby’. My mum went crazy because the woman pushed me down a hill in my pram. I was going down the hill in my pram and this guy ran after me and stopped me before I went off the edge of a cliff or something! My mum was fuming with my dad and people were asking ‘why did you let the woman push him? He could have died’.
That definitely could have been the storyline for a film.
LS: Yes, most definitely!
What other places have you visited?
LS: I’ve been to Turkey and Italy. I’ve been skiing too with school and went on all the trips.
Have you been on any lads’ holidays?
LS: I’ve been to Magaluf and loved that. It was a bit messy.
What’s the plan for this summer?
LS: My missus has been asking me to go on holiday with her, so we’ll go somewhere together.
How was your school and education?
LS: I enjoyed junior school in Messingham. I was good at football and the head teacher loved football, so he was pushing me to do that. I played for their school team. We used to play against Kyle Wootton’s school. We went to a play-off final in Barnsley with the school but didn’t do too well.
Have you always played in midfield?
LS: In school, I used to play as a striker. I did alright to be fair.
How was secondary school?
LS: It was alright. It was a bit more serious. I’m not the kind of person to be serious about anything at all. Towards the end, my mum told me to knuckle down. I think people get the impression I’m not that clever but if you get me with books I’m actually decent. Common sense lets me down! I got all my grades back though and I only failed one thing. I passed everything else. I got a B in Maths and a C in English.
Were you playing football at that time?
LS: I was playing for Scunthorpe and sometimes the club didn’t really want us to play for school in case we got injured. Any game I could have played, I played in though.
What about after you left school?
LS: I was offered my apprenticeship well before I left school. There was me, Kyle Wootton, Taron Hare and Charles Vernam, who went to Derby in the end. We signed those when we were 14.
Did that take your eye off the ball when it came to exams?
LS: A little bit. I had a teacher who wanted me to do well. It was a French teacher and he was a bit down towards me. He said ‘I don’t really think you’re going to do anything in football’. I said ‘I already have a job in football’.
He should have said ‘what if you want to play for Paris St Germain one day? You need to learn French and travel around the world’.
LS: Haha, I wish! You never know!
How was your apprenticeship here?
LS: We did the whole of Wednesday at college, and Friday afternoons after training at John Leggott.
Was that alright, or frustrating because you wanted to play football?
LS: When I was into my second year, I was training with the professionals and it was difficult to get there because we were training a lot later than the youth team on a Friday. I just knuckled down though and did most of it, thinking if I can get this ticked off now, I can go training with everyone else, instead of dragging it out.
How about sport? Do you like any others?
LS: I like to watch NBA basketball and will watch the golf when it’s on. That’s it really though.
Do you watch football on TV?
LS: I watch football all the time, any football. I’m a Manchester United fan. My dad passed it on to me!
Who was your biggest influence when you started playing football?
LS: I used to watch a lot of foreign teams such as Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane was my favourite player ever, because he wasn’t like a typical central midfielder. I always wanted to play in that position but he had a bit of everything about him. He could play wherever he wanted. That’s what I want to be like.
What about role models in your family? Who encouraged you in your football?
LS: I’d probably say my mum and dad. My mum helped in driving me around and taking me to training. Whenever I needed to have a conversation with somebody and see what to do, my dad would be there giving me advice. I’m still young really and need it.
How is it playing for your hometown team?
LS: It’s crazy. I watched Scunthorpe as a kid and went to Wembley both times in 2009 too. When you’re younger, you think about it, but it feels like an achievement. I’ve been there right from the start (in the academy). We (myself and Kyle Wootton) put a lot of hard work into it but I’ve been at this club for 12 years or so. To be in the first team now is mad. I always wanted to play for this team as well, so for it to be finally happening and going for promotion is great. At the time of the Chesterfield game, we had a few injuries and it was nerve-wracking at the time. I don’t get nervous until the whistle blows. I’m fine the night before though.
How was your loan spell at North Ferriby?
LS: It was six games but a great learning experience. I broke my leg in my first year as a professional and then I played in the Chesterfield away game and I just wanted to play matches. That chance came about, and I enjoyed it. It was different, certainly. Their lads were going to work and then coming to training. The lads and manager were unbelievable with me. Steve Housham is a great guy.
Do your family come to games?
LS: Yeah, my mum, dad and missus do. Some of my siblings do too. They support me whenever they can do.
What about shirts and memorabilia? Do you keep shirts with your name on?
LS: At the Chelsea FA Cup game, I wasn’t on the bench but was there. I went in their changing room and got Matic’s shirt and some youngster’s too. I’ve got all my debut shirts and boots too.
Do you keep programmes, teamsheets, etc?
LS: My mum keeps everything. She’s the biggest hoarder ever! I have a file from when I was at school. It’s broken on the sides because it’s that full!
Do you have any superstitions?
LS: No, I just get changed as normal! There was once a pair of lucky pants that I’d wear every game but I have none now.
How are you in the changing room before a game?
LS: I take it all in but don’t really say a lot. The manager will go around and speak to us, saying what he wants from us. I have to get myself ‘in the zone’ and think what I’ve done to get here. I don’t want to let anyone down.
You’re only 20, but what about life after football?
LS: You have to think about it. The PFA come in and talk to us, wanting to know our plans. I was speaking to my dad though, and I’d like to go into property eventually. If I am successful with football, it may be something I could do long-term.
Would you ever like to play abroad?
LS: Maybe one day, I like the sun. Perhaps the MLS in the USA. It’s getting bigger too with the players going across.