Sam Hutchinson, our former player - and a Chelsea fan - returns to the Bridge tomorrow with Sheffield Wednesday. Ahead of the game, we caught up with a player who made his Chelsea debut at the age of 17, as he reflected on his time at the club and looked forward to what promises to be a special night for him and his family.
Tomorrow’s FA Cup tie can’t come soon enough for one of the players likely to be involved.
Sam Hutchinson is expected to be patrolling the Sheffield Wednesday midfield, as he has done superbly since moving to Hillsborough in the summer of 2014.
On this occasion, though, it will be against the club he loves and represented at every level – including the first team – for a large part of his career.
There is no doubt it’s going to be a special night for Hutchinson, who was handed his Chelsea debut by Jose Mourinho at the age of 17 in a home game against Everton towards the end of the 2006/07 campaign.
‘It was crazy,’ he tells the club’s official website. ‘I was meant to get on a bit before but I think someone got injured and somebody else came off.
‘It was brilliant, though. All my family are Chelsea fans so It was a massive thing for me to make my debut and to do it at 17, and with the team we had at that time, was amazing.
‘Jose was new to England at the time and he was a breath of fresh air. All the players loved him and for me at 17 it was like a whirlwind. His training was amazing and I was doing one-v-ones against people like Arjen Robben and Damien Duff, and you learn from the best. It was a great experience for me.
‘In my first training session, when I was 16, Hernan Crespo trained and I was marking him. The players we had back then were amazing. Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and John Terry, then the likes of Ashley Cole, Deco, Nicolas Anelka, it was frightening. It was tough trying to compete with them.’
Although his big moment arrived when he was 17, Hutchinson’s Chelsea story had begun 10 years earlier when he first arrived at the club as a young child with big dreams.
‘I was seven when I joined and we were at Harlington back then, we didn’t even have any training kit or anything, they were completely different times,’ he recalls.
‘Bob Orsborn was my coach, he was the old kit man and he’d been there years, but he’s recently retired, they were great times.’
Technically strong, a fine reader of the game and capable of playing in a number of positions, Hutchinson was extremely highly regarded at the club. He admits, however, there was a period during his early days when it looked as though he might not make the breakthrough.
‘When I was in the Academy I had a lot of injuries and I struggled to get a scholarship, but when I went full-time Brendan Rodgers was the youth team manager and it just kind of went from there,’ he explains.
‘I started training with the first team and Jose Mourinho, who was the manager at the time, liked me. I was playing right-back or centre-back, but when I made my debut I actually came on for Wayne Bridge at left-back.’
As the Blues closed in on the Premier League title in 2009/10, Hutchinson supplied an inch-perfect cross which was expertly volleyed home by Lampard in a 7-0 win over Stoke City, but a few months later, aged just 21, persistent knee problems forced him into retirement, a truly devastating blow for the youngster.
During his time out of the game he was looked after by the club and spent some time mentoring our youngsters, until the pain in his knee gradually subsided to a point where he felt as though he could play again.
Making a return
Hutchinson forced his way back into the reserve side and, in 2012, eventually made a return to the first team, replacing Jose Bosingwa for the final eight minutes of a 6-1 win over QPR at Stamford Bridge.
After starting our final game of the season against Blackburn, Hutchinson then travelled with the squad to the Champions League final in Munich.
‘When Andre Villas-Boas was in charge they wanted me to do a pre-season with the first team but I stayed with the reserves as it would have been a big strain on my body, but eventually I got back into the side and travelled to the Champions League final, so it was brilliant to experience all of that,’ he remembers.
‘I was good mates with Ryan Bertrand, we stayed in a room together and because he started the game I was more buzzing for him than anything else. To make his Champions League debut in the final was unbelievable, and obviously with me being a Chelsea fan, and us winning, it was an amazing night.’
After a couple of loan spells, with Nottingham Forest and Vitesse Arnhem, Hutchinson joined Sheffield Wednesday, where he has established himself as an important member of the side and become a hugely popular figure with supporters.
It’s been a positive move for the likeable player both on and off the pitch, as he explains.
‘I went on loan in 2014 and signed permanently the following summer,’ he says. ‘We’re trying to do things the right way and we have Steve Bruce coming in soon. We’re trying to get up so hopefully it’s going to be a good time.
‘I’ve loved my time here. I play in a different position, in midfield, and I’ve basically reinvented myself as a midfielder so it’s enjoyable. It’s a different pace of life and sometimes I struggle with that, but I love being up here and I wouldn’t change it.’
Hutchinson was delighted when the draw paired his current and former clubs together, and the opportunity to come back to the Bridge is one which fills him with excitement.
‘I’ve wanted to go back there for so long,’ he says. ‘It’s weird because I was at Chelsea for so long and played at every age group, but I didn’t say goodbye to anybody.
‘It’s more for my family. My three kids will be coming to the game and my little boy loves Sheffield Wednesday, but also Chelsea. So it will be great for them, that’s what will make me most proud.
‘All my mates are Chelsea fans so a few of them are going, and my dad as well. He asked me to get him tickets in the Shed End so I had to tell him that it was going to be full of Wednesday fans!
‘We always do well against bigger teams and we can always cause an upset, which is what the FA Cup is about. Steven Fletcher is in form and all the boys are really excited. It’s a platform for the younger lads to show what they can do. There’s no pressure on us so it’s one to go out and enjoy.’
Hutchinson jokes that if he scores, which he doesn’t expect to, he will celebrate but only because he doesn’t get enough goals. There is no doubting his love for both clubs.
It’s sure to be an emotional night, however, for the player and his family as he returns to where it all started.
‘I was part of the furniture for 17 years and I love the club,’ he states. ‘Chelsea brought me up and moulded me into who I am today, so I can’t thank them enough.’
Given the journey he’s been on, it’s safe to say every Chelsea supporter will be wishing Hutchinson well.