Former Aston Villa defender Alan Hutton has heaped praise on ex-teammate James Chester after he marked his comeback from injury hell to play 77 minutes and comfortably see off a youthful Liverpool side on Tuesday evening.
Chester had not appeared for the Villa first team since January following knee trouble that saw him miss out as Dean Smith’s side climbed the Championship table and regained their top-flight status through the play-offs last season.
Having witnessed Chester’s recovery first-hand, Hutton was delighted to see the 30-year-old make his return in their 5-0 victory, commending him for an ‘outstanding’ comeback to first-team action.
Speaking to Football Insider, Hutton told of his pride over Chester’s midweek performance.
He said: “What a guy he is, a great leader on and off the pitch.
“And to be out for 11 months with knee problems, I really felt for him.
“When I was out with my knee problems, I was in the gym with him, so we went through a lot of hard work together.
“So to see him come back and play 77 minutes was honestly outstanding because he has been such a big player since he came to the club.”
Spending so long away from football, not least when your teammates are doing so well, must have made Chester’s injury all the more frustrating.
So to come back with a clean sheet, albeit against a severely weakened Liverpool side, makes Hutton’s words of praise no real surprise.
However, the stats back up his impressive return, with no player making more tackles than him throughout the match, while his tally of five clearances was by far the greatest on Tuesday.
Given Villa’s precarious status as they sit in 17th going into the Christmas period, Chester may well be a welcome addition to the Villans’ backline in the weeks to come as he takes a massive step towards a complete recovery – and perhaps a first-team place.
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