Sheffield Wednesday v Middlesbrough: Hutchinson making up for lost time to help Owls close gap

IN CONTENTION: Sam Hutchinson battles for possession in last season's Championship play-off semi-final against Huddersfield Town. Picture: Tony Johnson.
IN CONTENTION: Sam Hutchinson battles for possession in last season's Championship play-off semi-final against Huddersfield Town. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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When Sam Hutchinson describes his injury problems this season as one of his “darkest moments” you listen.

For this is the former Chelsea youngster who was forced to quit playing football, aged 21, due to a severe knee injury.

Now 28, midfielder Hutchinson has become accustomed to playing with pain as he enters his fifth season at Hillsborough.

But 2017 has not been kind to the former England youth player.

He finished last season playing in the Championship play-offs, against Huddersfield Town, with a ruptured hernia.

He rushed back after summer surgery, before fracturing his leg against QPR in August.

It was initially misdiagnosed, and only come to light after he attempted a 45-minute comeback in October, away at Bolton Wanderers.

Another operation was needed, and Hutchinson admits he struggled to cope with another extended spell on the sidelines.

“It’s just been a nightmare, a freak thing that just sums up my career really,” he said.

“I ruptured my hernia before, but played against Huddersfield – had an operation in the summer, and was never fit from that.

Sam Hutchinson has endured an injury nightmare since the end of last season, including breaking his leg against QPR. Picture: Steve Ellis

Sam Hutchinson has endured an injury nightmare since the end of last season, including breaking his leg against QPR. Picture: Steve Ellis

“I tried to rush it, then got a strange injury. It has been horrendous.

“I fractured my leg against QPR, and it didn’t get diagnosed for a month because the scans were read wrong.

“That ended up splintering, hence the reason why I played against Bolton then had to have an operation afterwards to get a bone removed. It was a bit of bone sticking in another bit of bone, which needed to be removed.

“I struggled. It was probably one of the darkest moments I have had – the worst season I have had here. But you come out at the end of it, and crack on.”

Automatic promotion is gone, let’s be realistic about it. We will have to do it the hard way again and fingers crossed it doesn’t go to penalties

Sheffield Wednesday’s Sam Hutchinson

Hutchinson has been back training for three weeks now, and starts today against Middlesbrough as Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal – without nine first-teamers last weekend due to injury – looks to end a six-game winless run.

Pressure is growing on the head coach and Wednesday to not allow the 10-point gap to the play-offs to get any wider.

The absence of Hutchinson – Wednesday’s midfield general – and striker Fernando Forestieri have left huge holes in the Owls team, which they have failed to fill.

On his comeback, Hutchinson said: “I am feeling really good. I returned to training two days before the Wolves game, but had to be careful as I was six weeks ahead of schedule.

“I should have been out until January, February.

“I would love to play (this weekend). If the gaffer needs me, wants me to play, I am more than happy to do it for the team.”

STRIKE OPTIONS: Jordan Rhodes and Britt Assombolonga

STRIKE OPTIONS: Jordan Rhodes and Britt Assombolonga

Hutchinson believes everyone at Wednesday needs to share responsibility for the club’s current situation – they languish 15th in the table – rather than just pile the blame on Carvalhal.

“It’s been difficult, and I haven’t played, so I don’t really want to comment on something I haven’t been involved in,” he said.

“What you can say, from minute one to the end they have always tried.

“It hasn’t gone our way, and it’s the first moment since Carlos came – and the majority of players have been here - that we are in a bad moment.

“It’s only going to be hard work, grit and determination - and everyone sticking together - that we are going to get out of it.

“Everyone has to take responsibility. I don’t think it’s solely on the players, or the gaffer, the club, these things happen. Sometimes you have a bad season, no-one wants to hear it, but we are not deliberately going out there to lose games.

“We are training hard, but it’s just not happening. Fingers crossed, we can turn it around and have a good go in the second half of the season. We need to win games.

“I am not here to speak about the gaffer, that’s the chairman’s job. We all want to play for the gaffer, I think you can see that, we have had two great seasons with him.

“He is the same as us, he doesn’t want to lose games. He doesn’t go out there to lose a game, we are trying, it’s just not working at the moment.

“When you are on a losing run, it’s hard to get out of it. We need to stop it and do something about it.

“Maybe get a few injured players back, and tearing into a few people might help, you never know. Something has to change, but to what extent I don’t know because I haven’t been around it much.”

Hutchinson believes automatic promotion hopes are over – the Owls trail the top two by 20 points – but still believes they can bridge the gap to the top six.

“Automatic promotion is gone, let’s be realistic about it,” he admitted.

“We will have to do it the hard way again and fingers crossed it doesn’t go to penalties,” he smiled, having missed a spot-kick himself in the play-off defeat to Huddersfield back in May.

“If you get a run of games you get confidence, and you can do anything.

“You really can be invincible if you get that confidence, teams are scared.

“We need that air of invincibility again, around the place, that arrogance to say ‘we are Sheffield Wednesday’ have the players to get on the ball, and don’t be afraid to pass.

“We are all showmen trying to please the fans because we play for Sheffield Wednesday.

“If we have to win ugly, we win ugly. It’s not going to be pretty because we are not in that kind of form.”