With the end in sight Sunderland enter the second game of a tricky three match period with some serious momentum gained from an eye-catching, and lets be honest, unexpected performance at the Etihad on Saturday. Harry Redknapp's Tottenham Hotspur are the visitors this Saturday lunchtime and have found a bit of form as of late following a bit of a slump and look in a strong position to grab a Champions League spot.
As is customary here on Roker Report we like to highlight a player who represented both sides and with any luck was half decent or did something noteworthy at least! So without further ado, a man who caught the Sunderland fans' attention with an impressive loan spell, Alan Hutton.As a young Glaswegian, Hutton began his career with the blue half of the Scottish city and joined Rangers in 2000 before signing a professional contract in 2002. The attack-minded fullback made his SPL debut in December of the same year, starring against Partick Thistle, however it would be a frustrating first and last taste first team action for Alan that term. Hutton made steady progress over the next couple of seasons as me made further strides into the first team. The 2004/05 term in particular was going well for both Hutton and Rangers, the club would go on to win both the SPL title and the Scottish League Cup that year, however Alan faced a lengthy spell on the sidelines in
February of 2005 following a nasty double leg-break as the right back fell victim to a wild challenge from Kilmarnock's Garry Hay.
The injury was a major blow for both Alan and Rangers as the youngster had just begun to find his feet and establish himself as a first team regular. Hutton also found further competition to his spot upon his return to the squad in 2005/06 season with the Dutchman Fernando Ricksen also vying for the right back slot. Alan soon found his feet again and recovered his fine form, impressing enough to be rewarded with a five year contract in the summer of 2007 and would go on to enjoy a fine start to the season, even enjoying Champions League football with appearances against Stuttgart and Lyon in the group stages before his eye-catching performances brought predictable attention in the January transfer window.
The then Spurs boss Juande Ramos, initially rebuffed with a £4m offer, finally secured Hutton's services with a fee in the region of £9m. The right back was immediately thrust into the starting eleven and made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United, a side who were also reportedly interested in Hutton's services prior to his transfer to
Despite being labelled as the "Scottish Cafu" thanks to his performances and attacking runs down the right wing for his national side, Hutton never really fitted in at Tottenham. Some off the field misdemeanors involving staggering out of nightclubs with Ledley King didn't help matters and a problematic metatarsal only seemed to lessen his chances of winning round his new boss Harry Redknapp.
Possibly to his detriment, whilst his desire must be admired, Hutton played through the pain barrier in a bid to endear himself to his new boss, but it did nothing for his performances or the healing of the injury itself and Alan was quickly back in a cast. Even upon returning to the squad fully fit Redknapp's mind seemed made up and first team football was hard to come by for the Scot.
An escape route from White Hart Lane was offered to Hutton in the shape of a loan move to the North East where Sunderland boss Steve Bruce was only to happy to bring the Scot into his squad in February of 2010. The full back had only made one first team appearance so far that season and was all too happy to get a break from his Spurs
I'm sure I'm not the only one that found Hutton to be a breath of fresh air in the right back slot. A real attacking threat that was more than capable of causing problems to the opposition defence with his surging overlapping runs and building an understanding with Fraizer Campbell who was often played out on the right through Bruce's genius. Obvious comparisons to Michael Gray, in his pomp at least, were quickly drawn from the home fans and quite rightly. It was strange to be actually excited and even entertained by a Sunderland fullback, that hadn't been the case for many years and especially at a time when SAFC were struggling with a mammoth injury and form upon Hutton's arrival.
The player himself seemed as keen as the fans to secure a permanent deal with the club and was quoted at the time as saying:
"Of course I'd love to stay. It's a massive club and I get on really well with the manager and the rest of the team. They have got everything in place and they are building for the future"
Even the club were keen to retain the Scot and did their utmost to prise the fullback away from Spurs, who despite keen to sell, were more interested in recouping as much of their £9m outlay as possible. Basically Levy was doing what Levy does best and the two clubs were unable to agree a deal.
So that was that. Hutton returned to Spurs and initially at least he seemed to have benefited from his loan spell and was installed as their first choice right back, keeping Vedran Corluka out of the side and enjoying a run in the Champions League which saw the London outfit impressively make the Quarter-Finals.
Hutton's Spurs reprise was not to last long however as the promising Kyle Walker was installed as the preferred option at right back and Alan swiftly jumped ship at the first opportunity and along with Jermaine Jeans moved to Aston Villa on transfer deadline day in August 2011.
And there we have it. Alan Hutton, we were given a tantalising taste of what the fella could have brought to our side before we succumbed to Spurs' transfer window mind-games and were unable to secure his services. Cest la vie.