The former Aston Villa fullback has today announced his retirement from football. Good luck, Hutts!
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
In Aston Villa’s infamous relegation from the Premier League, supporters had become increasingly displeased with the displays from the team that they were following through thick and thin. The atmosphere was toxic – enough that you could probably see it like a thick black smog engulfing Villa Park.
Amongst all of the disappointment and jeering, the sadness and the tears, there was one man that managed to unite a somewhat disconnected fanbase – Alan Hutton, honorary member of Paul Lambert’s ‘bomb squad’.
They were united in offering genuine, warm-hearted applause for the Scotland international. Not for a goal, or a goal-line clearance, but for getting sent off. This moment set Hutton apart from his team-mates as a player who cared, at least visibly more so than a number of his peers.
His challenge was borne of frustration, and was frankly rather dangerous as he left Ruben Loftus-Cheek in a crumpled heap on the pitch – but as he trudged towards the tunnel, his name rang out around the four stands of Villa Park.
Alan Hutton joined the club in 2011 for a reported £3,000,000 and arrived having won silverware with Rangers, playing within the burgeoning Tottenham Hotspur revival and with swathes of international level experience from his time with the Scottish national team. He was expected to hit the ground running in a side whos fortunes had unforgivingly changed from Champions League hopefuls to relegation candidates.
He struggled – and Matt Lowton was signed – leaving Alan Hutton to traverse three loan spells over two years as he moved to Mallorca (there’s a relatively amusing picture of him facing Real Madrid and trying to defend against Cristiano Ronaldo step-overs), Nottingham Forest and Bolton Wanderers.
In 2014, then manager Paul Lambert claimed that it was “unlikely Hutton will ever play for the club again” – but 832 days after what should have been his ‘last’ game for Aston Villa, the Scotland international started in Aston Villa’s opening game of the season – a win against Stoke. In fact, his first four appearances were so impressive, that he had managed to earn a new contract at the club after just 360 minutes of game time.
If anything, Aston Villa’s relegation to, and subsequent stagnation in the Sky Bet Championship prolonged Alan Hutton’s spell at the club. It did make sense to keep him around – he had emerged from the relegation with his reputation still intact – and was widely considered ‘one of the only players putting effort in’.
He relished the harsher rough-and-tumble that the Championship provided, found dealing with ‘lesser’ players easier, and developed his attacks to burst down the right hand side more often. This lead to the infamous chant labelling Hutton as ‘The Scottish Cafu’.
Losing his place at times to Ahmed Elmohamady and Ritchie de Laet did not phase him, and even occupied the left-back role during a period of defensive uncertainty caused by injuries. He played in that role for Aston Villa’s first play-off attempt, and looked distraught as the side lost to Fulham.
He was out of contract, not getting any younger and was likely going to have to find a new club. But Hutton rose from the ashes of a ‘dead’ career once more, as Aston Villa faced financial perils, signing a new one-year deal and taking a drastic pay cut in the process.
His final season saw two similar celebrations for two goals that fans had thought weren’t possible from ‘The Scottish Cafu’. The first was a momentous goal on the opening day of the season, lifting the mood as he screamed towards the away fans and jumped into the crowd.
The second wrote Hutton’s name into folklore for all eternity. He collected the ball inside his own half and racing past a number of Birmingham City players, before intimidating their defenders enough to continue backing off rather than make a challenge – before skipping into the box and firing into the bottom right corner of Lee Camp’s goal. He jumped into the delirious Holte End, which according to popular commentary ‘rose’ for him.
Alan Hutton faced many barriers in his eight-year-long Aston Villa career, but somehow, and with some tenacity, managed to fight his way into the hearts of the claret and blue faithful despite being told his time was up many years before that.
We’ve already said goodbye to the player, who was released from his contract five days after Aston Villa achieved promotion back to the Premier League – but this time, the Holte End will likely rise one more time for The Scottish Cafu.