Whilst the pages of The Villa Underground are littered with countless frustrations concerning Alan Hutton over the years, few could deny the man has shown both loyalty and persistence.
What Hutton may perhaps lack in footballing finesse, he could though never be accused of shying away from a 50/50 challenge or genuinely giving his all.
Whilst the Veretout’s, Lescott’s & Guzan’s of this world went through the motions, Hutton at least tried.
Indeed, a multitude of mercenary players have come and gone since he joined in 2011. Many of them barely broke a sweat for their millions whilst the club declined around them.
Irrelevant of what you think of the man or the player, Hutton has remained stoic.
Stoic despite being unceremoniously loaned out [Forest, Majorca, Bolton], being publicly told he wasn’t wanted and subject to constant criticism [Constructive or not].
He could easily have gone down the Charles N’Zogbia route of public relations, but to his credit, he has also remained professional.
QUALITY OVER EFFORT
However, it’s quality that counts as much as effort.
Effort will see you throughout a game, but quality is the measure upon which those games are won or lost.
In recent weeks Hutton has been much improved, but it’s important not to be blinkered or revisionist either. Hutton has demonstrated consistently over time that his defensive capabilities can leave much to be desired.
A cynic might even suggest that this sudden upturn is linked to the arrival of young, hungry and technically gifted James Bree. There’s also Ritchie De Laet lurking on the periphery as he recovers from a season ending injury.
Alternatively, maybe the former Spurs defender just has a point to prove?
Taking a more positive outlook, perhaps Hutton’s revival is linked to Villa’s recent improvements generally.
Suddenly, surrounded by better players and without the expectation to be a defensive rock as well as providing our attacking width, he can focus on more familiar responsibilities.
A similar improvement has been witnessed, albeit differently in Jordan Amavi. Now released of defensive duties, he looks far more composed in Villa’s troublesome left midfield position.
Whilst Hutton’s physicality is an obvious plus in the hustle and bustle of The Championship, so is his ability to carry the ball. This isn’t something many Villa players, least of all defenders, are often confident or capable of doing.
The 32 year has routinely used sudden darts into the middle third of the pitch. This not only causes some surprise for the opposition, but also enables there to be an extra man open to receive a pass. It’s also a tactics which is very hard to defend against.
So, there are positives to counter some of the unavoidable negatives, certainly.
Even as recently as the New Year, it appeared all but certain that Hutton would become a free agent in June 2017.
However, with a run in the team covering for injuries (De Laet for one) and his aforementioned improved form, this triggered an automatic appearance based contract extension. This extends his Villa Park career until at least June 2018.
Parking the social media noise for one moment, there are two grown up reactions to such news.
Firstly, it serves to underline the flawed thinking of the Lerner / Tom Fox management of Aston Villa.
The notion that appearances alone should translate into a contract extension are, well, an insight into the lack of forethought applied at Villa Park in recent years.
It’s not quite as stupid as the infamous Delph contract stunt, but it illustrates that in a results business, merely showing up was sufficient.
That’s not a criticism of Hutton, but it opens the door ajar into the world of Villa’s ability to princely reward underachievement even in an era of Lerner imposed austerity.
It’s also interesting to reflect that Hutton’s current deal was agreed just 7 months after he was publicly told he had no future at the club [February 2014]. Bonkers when you stop and think about it.
The second reaction is mixed.
Mixed either by the differing feelings that the wider Villa fanbase holds on Hutton generally.
For each recognition of his unquestionable work ethic, there is a valid question mark about all those errors directly leading to goals.
Is Hutton realistically to be a key part of any successful promotion push? Can he be relied upon?
Perversely, he might be.
For all of the question marks of Hutton, particularly in our relegation season, he has perhaps some worth at least for 18 more months.
The Villa Underground wrote 5 years ago that he would end up with an average Championship team. Well, Karma is a bitch indeed. But joking aside, he brings perhaps just enough to be a part of the squad to drag us kicking and screaming to the top flight next season. He might not be a critical part, but he could be a part of it.
If only for the experience, commitment, the professionalism & loyalty.
Healthy traits to have around a football club which has been bereft of them in recent years.
Hutton may yet make his final & most significant contribution to Aston Villa, in what is feasibly the final chapter of his B6 career.