Aston Villa head into the weekend in 5th place, 6 points clear of 6th with a healthy 9 goal buffer of 6th place Derby County. That means that the match against Norwich City to close the season will,presumably, have no impact on the final table place. It could however have a huge impact for a player that may soon depart the club.
This player is of course, Alan Hutton.
In the summer of 2011, the Scot joined the club on a 4-year deal. At the time he declared it “The only place I wanted to go“. Apart from a few short loan spells, Aston Villa is the only club that Alan Hutton has called “home” since.
Hutton played the entire 2011-2012 season for Aston Villa, which was followed by said loan spells until his return to the first team in the 2014-2015 season. These were certainly some of the darkest years in recent memory for the football club.
There are only 4 “first-team’ players that are still with the club that were there during the 2014-2015 campaign. Jed Steer (1 appearance), Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (1 appearance), Jack Grealish (24 appearances), and Alan Hutton (34 appearances). For most purposes, Grealish and Hutton are the only two players that really had to suffer through the intense relegation battle of this seasons campaign. Knowing full well what might be in store the next season, Alan Hutton showed his colors and signed a 3-year extension with club.
We all know what happened the next season. Ownership was not present at all. The club sacked 2 managers. The first team was full of players that didn’t care about the club. The team finished with the 3rd worst points total in PL history, and were subsequently relegated.
Many players departed during the following summer transfer window. A few were loaned out, some were sold, and a couple were sent to the bench for good. “Hutts” appeared in 36 matches during the inaugural Championship season, to the chagrin of many supporters. I recall this era when the vast majority of social media regarding Alan Hutton was quite nasty. Perhaps he didn’t see any of it, because he still came back to work everyday and always seemed to put in 100% effort every match.
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2017 marked the first full season in which Steve Bruce was in command of the club. Hutton once again featured regularly, playing in 33 total matches in what was then the final season of his contract. The club fell to Fulham 1-0 in the playoff final, and that could’ve marked the end for our Scottish Cafu.
In the summer of 2018, Nottingham Forest came calling, and our man turned down a multi-year deal in favor of remaining at Villa Park on a 1-year deal. That decision should’ve cemented all our opinions on this man’s love for the club. IF that didn’t do it for you, just watch this a few more times:
This all brings me to my main point: Dean Smith should rest Jack Grealish against Norwich, Alan Hutton should start, and be awarded the captain’s armband.
For a man whose career with Aston Villa has been marred by many bumps and cracks in the road, during which he’s remained fiercely loyal, it’s time to let him ride smoothly away from Villa Park. I can think of no better way to honor his service to the club than to have him captain the side that he loves, in front of the fans that have grown to love him, in what may be his final match in claret and blue.