Hutchison On Blues Stories & Embracing The Unconventional

Don Hutchison has always embraced the unconventional.

A goalscoring midfielder born in England, he scored a matchwinner for Scotland at Wembley. 

A teenage signing for Liverpool, he later captained Everton.

A West Ham club-record signing, he moved to fierce rivals Millwall.

And that was just the start.

“If you look at my career I’ve never done anything normal!” says Hutch, now an engaging media analyst for ESPN, Talksport and the Premier League.

“I was born in England, but played for Scotland. I signed for Liverpool and played for Everton. I played for West Ham, signed for Millwall. I supported Newcastle, but scored at St James’ Park - for Sunderland - and kissed the badge!

“I just did the complete opposite of normal things!”

But there is one enduring constant in Hutch’s career.

He spent two years at Goodison Park, scoring 11 goals in 89 appearances and the experience never left him.

“I loved it,” he declared. “Just the size of the Club. Everything. What’s that old saying, ‘Once Everton has touched you?’ Well, it’s true. You can’t put your finger on it. You just know you’re playing for a gigantic football club. You know the history and you get involved in the history. 

“I loved my time there.

“Strangely, I knew signing for Everton was going to be good for me because of my Liverpool connection. I knew I had to win the fans over. That was like motivation for me. I knew I couldn’t come in and act normally. I had to stand out, put a foot in, get on the ball and try my absolute hardest because that’s what the fans would want.

“I’d watched legendary players like Sheeds [Kevin Sheedy], Reidy [Peter Reid], Andy Gray and Inchy [Adrian Heath]. I’d watched football and studied it and if you do your homework you know you’re pulling on a big shirt.

“How you start helps. You have to rattle into a tackle early on and if you get on the ball when the team isn’t playing well, the fans think, ‘He’s got a bit more than I thought’.

“Then fast forward 10-20 games and they realise you’re really committed to the Club.”

Hutchison was clearly committed to the Everton cause. And that commitment was recognised not just by Howard Kendall, who brought Hutchison to Goodison Park from Sheffield United - but by Walter Smith, who took over from Kendall and made the midfielder his Club captain.

The circumstances, however, were strange to say the least!

There was no dignified handover of the armband - Hutchison earned his elevation pinned to a dressing room wall at Goodison Park.   

“It’s one of the weirdest stories ever!” he smiles. “We were playing at home and Walter took me off with about 10 minutes to go and the crowd booed the decision.

“I sat on the bench and Walter didn’t look at the game for the last five minutes, he stared down the line at me. He wanted me to shake my head or murmur something about him and I could feel him staring at me.

“I said to myself, ‘The crowd have let him know he’s made a bad decision, he’s going to come for you afterwards - just take it on the chin’.

“So the game finished 0-0 and he has come in and started having at right go at me. I’m sitting there with one monkey on my shoulder saying, ‘Just take it’ and another on the other shoulder saying, ‘You’ve got to stand up for yourself’.

“He was going on and on and on and I was just taking it.

“Then all of a sudden, because I wasn’t reacting, he’s picked a water bottle up and launched it at me. It’s exploded on the wall behind me above my head and landed by my right foot, and as it’s landed I’ve volleyed it back at Walter.

“That’s exactly what he needed. He leaped over the bench with all the Lucozade bottles on and got me by the throat.

“He pinned me to the wall and growled, ‘Get your gear on, get out and go home. You’re never playing for this football club again’.

“I was in the showers, really upset, and Archie [Knox] came in - talk about bad cop and bad cop! He said, ‘Are you okay?’ I said ‘No, what was that all about?’

“And he said, ‘Go and see the gaffer. He’s waiting for you in the boot room, first left’.

“I’m shaking when I go in to see him and he says, ‘Are you okay?’ I said, ‘Not really. What was that all about?’

“He said, ‘Would you say Dunc’s a hard man?’ I said ‘Yes’. He said, ‘Waggy’? I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘David Unsworth’? I said, ‘Yeah’. He said where were all those hard men when I had you up against the wall? You’ll be Club captain Monday morning. I swear that’s how the conversation went. I was thrilled - although I still had one problem to overcome.  

“Dunc [Duncan Ferguson] used to sit directly opposite me in the changing rooms at Bellefield and on Monday morning I pulled Waggy [Dave Watson] and said, ‘How do I tell Duncan what’s happened? How do I break it to the big man? He’s going to rip my head off!’ Waggy said, ‘Leave it. Do not say anything. He WILL kill you!’

“So I had to leave it until the next matchday. That was how I got the Everton armband!

“Walter was a tester. He wanted to see how I reacted, to test me.

“But the sensation of walking out with that armband on was the best ever.

“I loved it. I relished the responsibility. It gives you that extra 10 per cent when you are walking out of that tunnel first and you see Alan Shearer next to you, or Tony Adams.”

Don Hutchison
You can’t put your finger on it. You just know you’re playing for a gigantic football club. You know the history and you get involved in the history.

Hutchison relished that responsibility on 34 occasions - including leading an Everton team out at Anfield for a famous Kevin Campbell-inspired victory.

But the manner in which he was relieved of the duties were almost as bizarre as the fashion in which he became captain.

It ultimately led him to leaving the Club.

“Looking back it was desperately sad,” he explains.

“I’d been bugging Walter Smith for a new contract. I was bugging him every single day. We were at a pre-season training camp at Il Ciocco in Tuscany and we’d been doing three sessions every single day.

“After the last session of one day Walter said to me, ‘Get a bottle of red wine and come and see me and Archie on the balcony’.

“So I did just that. I went up to see them and poured three glasses of red wine.

“Walter said, ‘Right, how much do you want?’ I was on six grand a week at the time, the lowest-paid player, but I said, ‘I’m not really bothered. I just want to stay. I’m 29/30 I just want a bit of security’.

“So he said, ‘Right, you’re not having what Kevin Campbell’s on. He’s on fortunes from Turkey. You’re not having what John Collins is on because he’s on fortunes from Monaco. You’re not having what Olivier Dacourt and Marco Materazzi are on.

“Would you take what Barmby’s on? I said, ‘What’s he on?' And he told me £16,000. That’s why I remember it because it’s very unusual for a manager to tell you what everyone is on.

“I went, ‘100 per cent! From six to 16’. I had a glass of red wine. Shook his hand and Archie’s hand and left feeling amazing. I was buzzing the whole trip.

“But when we got back to England it all changed. Walter said he didn’t have any recollection of our meeting!

“When I told him he’d told me what other players were on and I couldn’t be making it up, he asked me if I was calling him a liar!

“For the second time he pinned me up against a wall and told me I’d never play for Everton again.

“The next day we were playing West Ham away and I was told to get my gear and go home.

“We won 4-0, Nick Barmby scored a hat-trick and I was listening to it on the radio!

“On Monday morning Walter gave me two choices. To train with the kids at 10am or on my own at 2pm when everyone had gone home.

“I took the second choice and trained on my own, playing head tennis with the groundsman with the funny feet who could turn his ankles backwards!

“My days were numbered. But I did get back in when there was a load of injuries and suspensions and I scored the equaliser with a header against Leicester – one of my best moments.

“I think what happened was Walter had agreed the rise with me but then the chairman had told him we don’t have that sort of money. 

“It was so sad and I left to join Sunderland.

“But going to Sunderland bizarrely felt like playing for Everton, because Reidy was there as manager and Inchy was there.

“It felt like Everton because of the connections and I loved it there.”

Such was Hutchison’s form on Wearside that West Ham paid a club-record fee to take him back to Upton Park – almost five years after he had left London first time around.

“I’ve always been a bit of a travelling wilbury and settled in quickly wherever I’ve been,” he reflects. “West Ham was no different. First time around I loved it. It had an amazing dressing room. Mad. But brilliant.

“There were people like Martin Allen who was an absolute nut case. Before every home game and every London derby he’d go to Oxfam and buy the worst suit he could find. A kipper tie, smallest suit with the biggest collars, bad shoes. It was hilarious - and he’d wear them on matchdays. Then we had great characters like Alvin Martin, John Moncur, Ian Bishop, Trevor Morley, Julian Dicks.”

Great characters who were partly responsible for Hutchison racking up an unusual record of one goal and one yellow card every three games - and a red card in one of his first matches against Leicester City!

“I remember before one of my first games against Leicester I was in a hotel and Dicksy and Martin Allen came over to see me,” he smiles. “I thought they were being nice, welcoming the new boy, but they just wanted free meals to put on my room!

“Those two were proper schemers and I asked them about the West Ham fans and they said, ‘Listen, whatever happens, it doesn’t matter how you play just launch someone and the fans will absolutely love you’.

“I followed the advice to the letter! Remember Mark Draper? A really talented 1990s midfielder, very underrated. I launched him once and I was thinking about the West Ham fans, and what my teammates had told me the night before, so I launched him again and got sent off. There’s a picture of Harry [Redknapp] shaking his head as I’m walking past him down the tunnel.”

Despite that ‘advice’, 11 goals in 39 matches ensured Hutchison’s first spell at Upton Park was a resounding success. But soon after his return, a dreadful ACL injury meant he was reduced to just 63 league appearances in four seasons.

Typically, he took the most challenging route imaginable and signed for local rivals Millwall!

“I’ve always done ridiculous things,” he adds. “I was going through a divorce at the time and had offers from Australia and the USA but couldn’t face being away from my lad who was five or six at the time. So I took the ‘easiest’ option - in terms of travel - which was the few miles down the road to The Den. My god I got hammered! Every matchday there were six fellas stood by my car screaming at me to get back to West Ham.

“I lasted six months and literally got sent to Coventry where Inchy was. I pleaded with him to get me out of there - and he did!”

One final move before hanging up his boots, to Luton Town, is still fondly remembered by many at Kenilworth Road.

Hutchison refused to take his last two wage packets to enable the club to keep two promising youth products.

“I just thought it was the right thing to do and their CEO Gary Sweet still remembers it,” says Hutchison. “They played Manchester United the other day and he texted me to say we wouldn’t be here without my gesture. Which was nice.”

Now Hutchison is a sought-after media analyst.

He has worked for Talksport, ESPN - and for the past 11 years the Premier League’s Goal Rush programme.

“I literally see every single game,” he explains.

But some bonds still endure.

“I was commentating on the Everton v Bournemouth match last season and I was so, so emotional,” he admits.

Has Everton touched Don Hutchison?

Actions speak louder than words - and he has already committed himself to an engraved granite stone on the Everton Way at the new Everton Stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock.

Don Hutchison’s Everton career might have ended 24 years ago - but he will still be a part of the Club’s future at our stunning new home.

Fifty-one years old and Don Hutchison is still embracing the unconventional.