Alex McLeish has been hailed as the ideal character to lead Aston Villa through their sticky start to the season, with new signing Alan Hutton declaring: “He’s been there, done it and got the t-shirt”.
Hutton reckons McLeish, his former manager and mentor for Glasgow Rangers and the Scotland national team, is already stamping his mark on the Villa dressing room and blocking out any negative vibes following a frustrating run of draws.
McLeish’s claret and blues are undefeated in six Premier League matches. However, they have won just one and the sequence of five stalemates and an early Carling Cup exit have increased the pressure ahead of this weekend’s visit of Wigan to Villa Park.
It is a fixture which will bring the Villa manager into direct opposition with the man who turned down the manager’s position, in B6, before it was offered to McLeish, Latics boss Roberto Martinez.
But Hutton is convinced the current incumbent is the right man to take Villa forward, regardless of the critics willing him to fail and refusing to cut him any slack because of his previous place of employment.
From their time working together north of the border, Hutton recognises McLeish’s ability as a man motivator and a positive influence and believes the Villa players will appreciate his managerial methods.
“He’s been there, done it and got the t-shirt if you like,” said Hutton. “He was a fantastic footballer himself, so just the guidance will help, he’s a strong character.
“When I was struggling as a player or having a dip in form he would always encourage you. I think as a team you want a man who you can always go to and I think Alex is like that.”
Asked if McLeish’s influence was growing around the Bodymoor Heath training headquarters, Hutton replied: “Of course. I think he’s been like that wherever he has been. I don’t see why here would be any different.
“We’ve got a great squad here, it’s just about learning what he wants us to do and progressing as a team. I feel I’ve done really well. The boys have welcomed me in and the manager has been great. Personally it’s gone well.
“Obviously we’d like to have won some of the games but other than the Carling Cup, we’ve not lost a game so it’s not too bad so far.”
Hutton is optimistic about Villa’s prospects under McLeish.
He concurs with his fellow Scot’s decision to bolster the back four to make the claret and blues hard to beat before addressing how to sharpen the team up in attacking areas.
“I’d always like to say I’m half full, you want to take the positives from each game,” added Hutton. “The fans pay their money and they come to watch the team play free-flowing football, and attacking and everyone doing well.
“We understand that the fans want to be entertained and see goals
“But first and foremost you have to be strong at the back. Our defenders have got lots of experience at club level and national level, but they’ve helped me along so much, always talking to me and helping me.
“They have made it really easy to settle in, they’re always talking to me telling me where to go and I feel like I’ve settled in really quickly.
“I’ve just come here, I hadn’t played a lot of games before so it’s about getting my fitness up. But the manager knows what I can do and he knows what I’m capable of, and my fitness is starting to come back now.”