Alan Hutton opens up on being centre of £9m Rangers transfer - whirlwind, chats with David Murray, Cristiano Ronaldo and the one Rangers regret

On the night of Tuesday, January 29, 2008, Alan Hutton was standing in Murray Park with a black bag in his hand.

Alan Hutton didn't want to leave Rangers. Picture: SNS
Alan Hutton didn't want to leave Rangers. Picture: SNS

The defender had finally agreed to leave Rangers and join Tottenham Hotspur.

He had achieved something which hundreds of players had been unable to do, transition from the club’s academy and become a first-team star at Ibrox. Ahead of his club record £9million move, he was now alone at the training ground, getting ready to uproot his life to London without anyone to say goodbye to.

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For nearly a month, Hutton had been the centre of a protracted transfer saga. Spurs really wanted him. But he didn’t want to go. He was happy at Rangers, keen to stay put at Ibrox.

Hutton made the switch to Spurs in January 2008. (Photo: Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images)

Yet, the transfer window is an intense curiosity. It can take on the unpredictability and destructive force of Twister, whipping up everything and anyone in its path. Players, managers, agents, directors, fans. Especially fans.

Supporters have this unyielding, sycophantic and unhealthy relationship with the two windows each season. A signing must be made. They will moan and kick up a fuss until a player is standing with scarf above head. They get a small hit, a momentary rush of excitement. Then it’s gone, back to that unquenchable thirst for the signing klaxon.

For players, it is a different feeling. Life-altering decisions have to be made. The pressure is intense.

‘Stop pestering me’

Hutton broke into the Rangers first-team as a youngster. Picture: SNS

"Personally it’s a nightmare if I’m absolutely honest, especially that January window,” Hutton told The Scotsman in an interview via Coffee Friend.

"I didn’t want to leave Rangers, that was the biggest factor. I didn’t want to go. It was every single day in the press, my agent was on the phone to me every single day, sometimes more than once. So you were always kept up to speed exactly what was happening, what chats were happening, figures that were involved.

"It became a bit of a nuisance, it was annoying me. Probably into about the third week of January I said ‘I’ve had enough, I’m not going, stop pestering me, leave me alone’.”

When it comes to the transfer window nothing is ever straightforward.

The press speculation, agents, conversations. In turn, it is rare that all those involved in the process want the same outcome.

For Hutton, talks with then Rangers chairman David Murray proved significant.

‘Rangers are my team’

"If you are desperate for a move then brilliant but if you are happy where you are it can be a difficult period of time.

"It’s lovely when a team wants you that much, first and foremost. It makes you feel good, of course it does. But I think with the fee involved I was having meetings with the chairman at the time in Edinburgh. He was basically saying it was ‘a great opportunity moving forward for you, your family, your future and it would be great investment for the club getting the money in’.

"It kind of went that way where I understood the club wanted the money in, it would also be good for me moving forward going to London to try something new.

"Literally, the last few days [of the window] I made my mind up that I was going to leave. A real, real difficult one if I’m totally honest in my football career.”

He added: "You are thinking ‘Rangers are my team, I want to play here, I want to win things’ but then the opportunity to go down south and work with some of the best players around, play against some of the best players around in a league which is seen throughout the whole world.

"You want to test yourself against the best opponents. That’s what it came down to. Of course financially it’s better to be down south. I think over everything it was about me testing myself against the best players.

"My first game was against [Cristiano] Ronaldo. No disrespect to the Scottish league but you aren’t going to come up against that sort of competition unless you make it to the Champions League.”

Walter Smith, release, regret

At the time, Rangers manager Walter Smith said “there is disappointment that he’s leaving, but clearly it was an offer we couldn’t turn down”.

In recent weeks, Hibs manager Jack Ross took the approach of removing Josh Doig from playing duty while his future was in the air. But Smith continued to play Hutton through the window, despite the offers and speculation.

For Hutton, who admitted being affected by it all, football acted as a release.

“You can’t let it weigh you down too much,” he said. “I think it did on me. It was really difficult for two or three weeks, my agent turning up at my house.

"I was getting stressed out about it where if you can, you keep it to one side and allow the powers that be to deal with it.

"You just concentrate on what you can deal with and that’s playing football.

“I had an amazing relationship with Walter Smith. He basically put it to me that if I was in the right place, training right then I would play. It was as simple as that.

"That was my release from it all because when I played at Ibrox or wherever it may have been I didn’t have to concentrate on anything else other than football so that was the good time for me, I could go and enjoy playing.

"That time at Rangers was probably one of the best moments of my football career. I truly loved playing, enjoyed every single minute of it. I liked everything about it. I knew eventually that I was going to have to make a decision and it was just coming round the corner. For me and the team it suited everybody.

"If I could change anything it would be to wait until the summer [transfer window]. That’s my only regret.”

Emotional

An “absolute whirlwind” is how Hutton describes those hours from when you decide to leave to the deal officially being done. An emotionally draining period which involves relocation, travel, medicals and everything else which comes with being the centre of a big money move.

He was, however, grateful for the timing of the move, pitched in to face Premier League champions Manchester United.

"I eventually said I would go," he said. “That night, get myself to Murray Park, pick up all my stuff. You feel emotional because I came through there as a kid and that’s me saying goodbye to it on Tuesday night at 9pm, nobody there. Me with a big black bag.

"The next day was a whirlwind. Straight down, medical in London took forever. It was a lot of money at the time for a full-back so they wanted to make sure everything was okay so they did a thorough medical.

"The good thing is when I signed it was really close to the game, everybody was thinking whether I would play, even I was.

"Bang, I was straight involved, first game you are in the team. That was good because even though everything was hectic around about me, my family moving down, having to organise everything, a house, I could just go ‘I’m signing now, we’ve got a game, I can focus on that’.

"That actually helped me quite a lot just to get thrown in at the deep end.”

Hutton's new team drew 1-1 with Manchester United that day and the player drew curious glances from team-mates as he raged at not winning in the dressing room after the match, having been so used to that expectation at Rangers.

That, along with sharpening up on the defensive side of his game, were the two aspects he had to adapt to.

"It was a little bit strange to get used to,” he said. “The expectations are there also but at Rangers you can’t lose a game. You lose one game and it’s like the world’s going to end.”

This interview was in association with Coffee Friend, an international retailer for coffee and coffee machines

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