Each of Aston Villa’s three newcomers enjoyed excellent first performances for the club but it was the “second debut” of Alan Hutton that might just epitomise the potential turnaround the club can now envisage.
While Philippe Senderos, Aly Cissokho and Kieran Richardson competed for man-of-the-match honours with their commitment and defensive dedication, the Scotland right-back contributed just as much to helping shut out Stoke City and so bring Villa their first away win since New Year’s Day.
Hutton has been among the high earners frozen out as Villa attempted to curtail expenditure. But, with the club up for sale, owner Randy Lerner’s attentions have reverted to the needs of today rather than hopes for tomorrow.
Villa need to secure their Premier League status more convincingly this season than in the past three years as the chairman seeks to attract new owners, so he has agreed that Paul Lambert should utilise any players on the club’s books to bolster their status. He has also backed his manager in the transfer market and with Carlos Sanchez, the £4.7m Colombian World Cup star, to integrate into a hard-working midfield, Villa should be far harder to beat this season.
Ciaran Clark, a talented young defender, can bide his time this season and learn his craft watching, playing occasionally and training alongside Ron Vlaar, who continued where he left off with Holland in the World Cup finals, and Hutton.
It was from this sound defensive platform that Villa earned the confidence to go on and win thanks to Andreas Weimann’s goal as Stoke, with Bojan Krkic fitful on his debut, struggled to cope with the invitation to dictate a tempo to open up resolute opponents.
Hutton, loaned out to Nottingham Forest, Real Mallorca and Bolton Wanderers during the first two years of Lambert’s reign, admitted he thought he would never play for Villa again.
“To be honest I didn’t see this happening,” he said. “All you can do is work hard and hopefully the chance comes and you can take it.”
Despite being frozen out, due to “decisions from high above”, he has maintained good relations with Lambert. “I was always in contact with the manager, even when I wasn’t playing,” he said. “We had a good chat towards the end of last season and he said I would be [back] involved. I came back, had a full pre- season and was ready to go.”
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