Alan Hutton: Aston Villa defender 'a manager's delight', says boss Steve Bruce
Alan Hutton will play at left-back for Aston Villa at Wembley on Saturday out of position and almost out of contract, but not out of Steve Bruce's thoughts.
The former Scotland international, 33, is again set to deputise for the injured Neil Taylor in the Championship play-off final against Fulham.
And Villa boss Bruce hopes Hutton will continue the form that has helped earn three successive clean sheets.
"Over two legs against Middlesbrough he was outstanding," Bruce told BBC Sport.
"Since we've moved him to left-back, he's gone to a different level.
"Defensively, we've been very good all season. If you're to be successful, you have to have that.
"What's got us through both play-off semis with Boro is how we've been defensively. They didn't have a shot on target."
Hutton's Villa timeline
- 2011-12: Signed by Alex Mcleish for £9m from Tottenham. Made 31 Premier League appearances.
- 2012-13: Only games were five caps for Scotland before being loaned to Nottingham Forest and Real Mallorca.
- 2013-14: Only games were seven caps for Scotland before being loaned out to Bolton Wanderers in March.
- 2014-15: Signed new Villa deal. Made 30 Premier League appearances under Paul Lambert and Tim Sherwood. Played in FA Cup final defeat by Arsenal.
- 2015-16: Played 28 league games as Villa went down. Also retired from international duty.
- 2016-17: Played only in Roberto Di Matteo's first and last league games, prior to Bruce's arrival.
- 2017-18: Again a regular under Bruce this season, playing in both full-back positions.
Hutton's career turnaround
The reblossoming of Hutton's career at Villa under Bruce seems all the more extraordinary, given a two-year exile following his first season at Villa Park.
After spending the 2011-12 campaign as a regular first-team player, Hutton found himself out in the cold under Paul Lambert following the sacking of Alex McLeish, the man who signed him.
Because of financial constraints, although still a regular with Scotland, he was reduced to training with the Villa youngsters and was sent on loan to Nottingham Forest,Real Mallorca and Bolton Wanderers before being brought back into the first-team fold before Lambert left.
Now he is shining under Bruce and in line for a new contract, which would make him Villa's longest-serving player if, as expected, injury-plagued Gabby Agbonlahor moves on this summer.
"If anyone deserves a contract, it's Alan Hutton," said Bruce. "If I get my way, he'll get one.
"He's everything I enjoy in a player. He gives you everything he's got in training. He works like a beast, always first in - a manager's delight."