Still in Business
Probably the best thing about the fact Alan Hutton had signed a new one-year contract with Villa today, was the clear signal that Aston Villa Football Club weren’t going into liquidation any time soon.
With Hutton approaching 34-years-old, there’s no doubt the player took a pay cut, but still, Villa have demonstrated they have enough money to sign players. It should put the EFL at ease, ahead of the club’s meeting to explain the recent tax issues.
If it was ‘Defcon One’ in the Villa accounts department, there’s no way Villa would entertain Hutton. He’s not a necessity; he’s useful squad padding when you consider the financial restrictions on seriously adding to the squad, but hardly a game changer.
Hutton’s resurrection since spending two full seasons in Paul Lambert’s bomb squad from 2012-14 – which saw him loaned out to Forest, Mallorca and Bolton – has been remarkable. At the same time though, he’s been indicative of Villa’s decline – relegation battles and then repeated promotion failure. Sections of Villa supporters seem content though when a player simply puts effort in, as opposed to demonstrating any ability. Hutton is something of a patron saint of that.
Hutton can tackle and has a good engine, but sometimes he’s guilty of positional lapses (see play-off final) and is often limited when venturing forward, which can make Villa look one-dimensional down his flank.
Yet Alex McLeish’s purchase has never given up and even when Villa had several options at full-back last season, he saw them all off.
He’s a catch-22 player. You wish more professional players had his attitude, but you get the sense Villa might not get to where they want to be, unless they start to look to the future in terms of a different solution at full-back.
The Championship, if truth be told, is Hutton’s level. It’ll be Villa’s third season in the league, so they can no longer persuade Premier League level players for a quick season in the Championship to help them get up. We’re in ‘the boy that cried wolf’ territory in terms of that trick.
Even to the cynical, having Hutton in the ranks, who believes fully in the Villa cause, isn’t a bad thing going into an uncertain season ahead. Yet, Bruce needs to start thinking about Villa’s medium to long-term future and give the likes of James Bree a proper run.
Approaching next season with the same short-termism approach as the last, will be akin to banging the club’s head against a wall. The squad will not be as strong as last season and the likes of Jedinak, Hutton and Whelan will be in their mid-30’s. So, it’s time for Bruce to also lay the foundations for seasons ahead and finally formulate that elusive Plan B.