With Aston Villa taking 10 points from their opening four Premier League games, one of the most pleasant surprises so far been the form of right-back Alan Hutton.
A crucial part of the back-line which has conceded just one goal, it marks a remarkable turnaround for the once-jettisoned “bomb squad” member, whose Villa career appeared to be all but over after criticising manager Paul Lambert last September.
Signed from Tottenham Hotspur under former boss Alex McLeish in 2011, the Scottish international was a regular in his first season at the club but failed to make a single appearance over the next two campaigns following Lambert’s arrival, with Matthew Lowton brought in from Sheffield United as his replacement.
Sent out on loan spells to Nottingham Forest, Real Mallorca and Bolton Wanderers in an attempt to soften the blow of his £30,000-per-week wages, Lambert himself admitted that he didn’t expect to ever see the 29-year-old in a claret and blue shirt again, but things swiftly changed this summer after a move to rivals West Bromwich Albion was blocked.
Brought back into the first-team fold during pre-season along with fellow outcasts Darren Bent and Charles N’Zogbia, he’s since taken his second chance and ran with it, establishing himself as the undisputed first-choice at his position with a string of impressive performances.
While it’s helped that both Lowton and the versatile Leandro Bacuna looked unconvincing in the role last season, Hutton’s stats show that he’s more than justified his return to the lineup, with his numbers looking commendable even when compared to some of his top Premier League counterparts.
|2014-15||Team||Total Att Assist||Total Cross||Outfielder Block||Total Tackle||Total Clearance||Duel Won||Interception||Total Pass||Apps||Mins|
|Alan Hutton||Aston Villa||4||13||2||9||18||25||8||128||4||360|
|Pablo Zabaleta||Man City||1||3||0||7||4||8||0||75||2||180|
Having previously earned a £5 million move from Rangers to Spurs in January 2008, Hutton has the pedigree which suggests he can continue to prove a more than capable top-flight full-back, but whether he can sustain his current level of performance over the coming weeks remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, considering most fans never expected to see him on the pitch again, even a league-average contribution will be appreciated going forward, as Villa attempt to keep their bounce back season on track.