Alan Hutton: ‘Ronaldo is Gareth Bale warm-up’
BY HIS own admission, Alan Hutton was “wasting away” in Aston Villa’s reserve side just a few months ago and fearing that his Scotland career was about to come to a shuddering halt.
But the despair the 28-year-old right-back felt during that period is becoming a distant memory as he savours an unexpected opportunity to prove himself in the sunshine and glitz of Spanish football.
On Saturday night, Hutton was on duty at the Bernabeu Stadium and pitting his wits against Cristiano Ronaldo. In the first round of club fixtures after the current international break, he is scheduled to line up against Lionel Messi & Co at the Nou Camp.
Little wonder that a tanned and relaxed Hutton was a picture of contentment yesterday when he met reporters at Scotland’s Renfrewshire base ahead of the World Cup qualifying matches against Wales and Serbia. It’s fair to say that his loan move to Real Mallorca in La Liga has had a rejuvenating effect on the former Rangers and Tottenham man.
“It’s something totally different, just what I needed,” said Hutton. “Sometimes you get into a wee dip where things aren’t going your way. Then you need something right outside the box to lift you again.
“That’s what has happened to me with this move and I’m enjoying my football again. Both the football and the training sessions are very technical, a lot different to English and Scottish football, and hopefully it’s going to make me a better player. I would never have thought I’d end up in La Liga. When the Mallorca opportunity came up at the end of January, I could have gone to other English clubs instead. But I wanted to try something completely different.
“I’m loving it and, all being well, I’d like the move to turn into something more concrete.”
That will depend on both Mallorca avoiding relegation – they are currently third-bottom of the table and two points off safety – and Aston Villa being prepared to release Hutton from the remaining two years of his contract. He remains somewhat bemused by Villa manager Paul Lambert’s decision to remove him from the first-team picture at the Midlands club.
“I don’t really know what happened,” added Hutton. “As far as I can see, Villa are moving in a different direction, whether it is with younger players or whatever. But it wasn’t really made clear to me.
“I had a few conversations with the manager but was given no in-depth reasons why it wasn’t working for me there. I was just getting phased out more and more. I wasn’t training with the first team, then I was training with the kids. You are getting nothing out that.
“I went into a dip because it was affecting everything – my confidence, my life at home, my performance and my Scotland career. It affects everything you do. So it was a hard time.
“When I was joining up with the Scotland squad earlier this season, I knew it was getting to the stage where if I wasn’t playing for Villa, I couldn’t expect to play for my country. That’s why I went to Nottingham Forest on loan for a spell.
“I can’t see myself going back to Villa and getting a game, so for me it is done there. It’s now a case of me playing every week for Mallorca and proving I’m good enough to play or someone in Spain, England or wherever.
“I wouldn’t want Villa to be asking for silly money for me in the summer but I really don’t think they could. They don’t want me, so how could they then make big demands? They’ll have to be sensible about it and I’m sure they will be.
“To get the opportunity I have to get away from it all and starting again has been too good to miss. I’ve gone from doing nothing at Villa, feeling as if I was wasting away, to playing against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.”
Although Mallorca were beaten 5-2 on Saturday night, they led 2-1 at half-time and Hutton was praised for his display against Ronaldo. Real coach Jose Mourinho even paid the Scot the compliment of switching the Portuguese superstar to the opposite flank in the second half.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” reflected Hutton. “We were 2-1 up at the break and could have scored more. Madrid are fantastic team, but they do give you chances. At some point they are going to get you with the players they have and they all clicked at the right time in the second half. But we were happy with our performance.”
Testing himself against Ronaldo is viewed by Hutton as the ideal preparation for the assignment he will face at Hampden on Friday night against his former Tottenham team-mate Gareth Bale. Such has been the Welshman’s form in recent weeks, he is being compared with Ronaldo and Messi.
“Gareth is quite similar to Ronaldo, in the way he plays and in what he is capable of doing to an opposing team on his own,” added Hutton, who is set to win his 30th cap for Scotland against Wales. “So if there is anyone you want to warm up against ahead of facing Gareth, it would be Ronaldo. I’m fortunate I had the chance to do that on Saturday. It tests you to the limit of your ability.
“I think Gareth has all the attributes to be in the same bracket as Ronaldo. He is still quite young, people forget that, and if he keeps progressing as he is now, then the sky is the limit for him. When I joined Spurs, he was just 18 and you could tell right away he was technically far in advance of anyone else at the club. He has matured as a player and as a person since then and is doing really well at the moment.
“He can be unbelievable at times but at the end of the day, he is just one more player in the Welsh team. They also need to worry about us on Friday because we have some great attacking players of our own and can be a good force going forward. So Wales are also going to have to watch us, this game isn’t just about us stopping Gareth Bale.
“We shouldn’t go into it just worrying about one player. Obviously we have to be careful with him, but we can’t be 100 per cent focused on him only. He made the difference against us when we lost 2-1 in Cardiff last October, but it still sticks in the throat how we lost that game.
“This Friday night is massive for us, with a new manager having his first competitive game at Hampden. We believe we can still get back into contention in this campaign. We know it’s going to be tough but we want to do ourselves justice and prove we are a good team who can match up against the best. I believe we can pick up points in these next two games and then who knows how the group will develop?”.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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