When Alan Hutton joined Aston Villa in the summer of 2011 no one, including him himself, could have predicted how his time at the club would have panned out. Three loan moves, one relegation, and a cult following at Villa Park later it would seem that Hutton is destined to leave B6 and move onto pastures new.
During his time in the dreaded ‘Bomb Squad’ it looked like Hutton’s time in B6 would come to an abrupt end. To his credit, Hutton refused to accept his fate and moved on loan to get first team opportunities that had been scarce under Paul Lambert.
When he came back to the club for the start of the 2014/15 season he found himself as first choice right back once again. He would go on to make 28 appearances that season, including one in the FA Cup Final, and then made 30 appearances the following season where the club were ultimately relegated.
It was this final season in the Premier League in particular that earnt Hutton the respect of most fans at Villa Park. When all those around him appeared to have given up, Hutton would consistently give his all and refused to go down without a fight.
When the club began the 2016/17 in the Championship, Hutton kept his place in the team. He established himself as one of the better right backs in the league with his no nonsense tackling and adventurous runs down the right wing. In was this style of play that earnt Hutton the ‘Scottish Cafu’ nickname and is the reason why his name is chanted more than any other on the terraces.
In this past season Hutton has faced stiff competition for the right back slot with the acquisition of Ahmed El Mohamady and the development of James Bree as a real talent. Hutton, once again, refused to left out of the team and set his eyes on Neil Taylor’s left back shirt.
Hutton replaced Taylor for the 1-0 away win at Middlesbrough which was the catalyst for Steve Bruce’s men winning 7 in a row. Even when Taylor came back into the squad, he was unable to dislodge the now settled back four of Hutton, Chester, Terry and El Mohamady. It was this defensive solidity that brought the club to the brink of the Premier League.
It wasn’t enough, however, and the resulting financial struggles the club now faces is well documented. This means that some difficult decisions have had to be made. One of these is that Alan Hutton won’t be in claret and blue come next season.
Hutton is currently 33 years old and had been earning a rumoured £30,000 a week. This type of Premier League wage is one of the reasons the club is in this financial mess and could likely have been the major stumbling block. If the club was unable to offer Hutton the wage he commanded and an agreement couldn’t be reached then it seems that there was no other option. It is rumoured that Nottingham Forest have offered Hutton a two-year deal on a very competitive wage that would likely tie Hutton over until he retires. This offer, coupled with the lack of clarity on what is occurring at Villa, may make the decision for Hutton easier. At the moment, Hutton is denying any move away from Aston Villa, despite his presence on the ‘released’ list of players.
If Hutton is to leave then what does this mean for the Villa? Probably most importantly in the current climate Hutton leaving means a sizeable chunk of the wage budget will be cut. This will undoubtedly help our FFP woes and go some way to returning the club to financial stability.
It is also important to consider what this means for Villa on the pitch. With no Hutton, the first team is left with 2 right backs and just one left back. At right back, I feel we will still be strong. Elmo was a stalwart of the team last season and is a solid Championship right back. James Bree is developing with every minute of first team football and is likely the long-term answer.
The biggest concern is at left back. With this season’s transfer budget likely to be restricted it may be difficult to adequately replace Hutton and so Bruce may have to look internally. Neil Taylor looks like the ready-made replacement but he failed to win his place back from Hutton last season. When Taylor arrived in January 2017 he made a strong start but since the incident with Seamus Coleman on international duty he hasn’t reached the same levels of performance.
Below the first team, there isn’t a plethora of options. Mitch Clark has played left back for the under-23’s for the majority of this season and featured in the first team’s second round Carabao Cup victory over Wigan. He has yet been tested against Championship opposition and so it is unclear if Clark can make the grade. If Steve Bruce isn’t satisfied with these options they he may be forced to delve into the loan market to find an adequate replacement.
This would undoubtedly have been a difficult decision for the top brass at Aston Villa but these are the decisions they are paid to make. Time will tell, both on and off the pitch, if they have made the right decision for the club. For what it’s worth, I think that financially it is the right decision but if he isn’t replaced then we may suffer the consequences on the pitch.