MIDFIELDER Sam Hutchinson is hoping for a feisty, tough-tackling derby when play-off hopefuls Sheffield Wednesday kick-off at Barnsley this lunchtime.
The former Chelsea youngster is one of a rare breed in English football, a player who enjoys going to ground and tackling in a sport that is gradually erasing the defensive arts.
But Hutchinson sees tackling as integral to football, and is refusing to curb his style of play.
The 27-year-old’s midfield nous could prove vital in the high-tempo South Yorkshire derby at Oakwell today, a 12.30pm kick-off that will severely test the Owls’ promotion credentials.
Just a point ahead of nearest rivals Fulham, sixth-placed Owls return from the international break looking to improve a recent stuttering record of just four points from a possible 18.
So does Hutchinson – who retired aged 21 with a serious knee injury in his Stamford Bridge days, before returning to the game – expect a feisty derby today?
“I hope it is,” replied Hutchinson. “But at the end of the day, you can’t do that anymore. You always get punished for every little thing.
“You are not allowed to tackle any more, it’s going more and more out of the game, for the safety of players.
“As in every sport, even rugby they are trying to take as much contact as possible out of the game, and it’s a shame.
“It’s an art to tackle. Some people get it wrong, like myself, but it’s an art and shouldn’t be taken out of the game.
“It’s part of the competitive nature of a sportsman, why we play. For someone like me, who is a defender, it’s as good as scoring a goal, because that’s my job, we want to defend the box.
“People say about England, they can’t defend, but they are not allowed to. If they touch anyone it’s a foul.
“They have to be so careful. Obviously, they are great footballers, at the top of their game, and can defend, but they are not allowed to.
“I understand the rules, every game has to develop, but sometimes a good, hard challenge is not bad.”
Hutchinson – sent off twice this season – was central to a controversial incident in the previous meeting between the two teams at Hillsborough in December.
He and Adam Hammill clashed, which resulted in the latter being sent off.
Hutchinson insists it was the correct decision, but holds no grudge against the Barnsley winger.
“He should have gone, he tried to two-foot me, that’s the truth,” smiled Hutchinson.
“He’s a winger and he can’t tackle.
“I went in fairly and he tried to two-foot me. I have got no hard feelings about that, but that’s the truth.
“I say that in jest, it was just one of those things and that’s what happens in football.
“If someone does a bad tackle on me, it is what it is, I would never hold a grudge.
“It’s the competition; sometimes you get carried away with it, like I have done many a time.
“I thought the referee had sent me off, because he pointed the card at me. That was strange.
“Tackling is not a winger’s game. I can’t do skills. He can go and take someone on, I can’t do that, but I can tackle.
“I hope he tries to smash me (again), it will be fun and I quite enjoy that (side of the game).”
Hutchinson can see similarities between the style of play under Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal, and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese pair share similar footballing philosophies, and the midfielder believes the Owls have improved this season despite reaching the play-off final last year.
“In the Championship, you can’t just play football, you have to battle. It’s such a hard league,” he said. “The Premier League is totally different, obviously, you get more time on the ball, but you also get punished quicker.
“In the Championship, it’s constant pace and you have to battle, and I think (Sheffield Wednesday’s head coach) Carlos (Carvalhal) understands the league and what it needs to be. I honestly believe we are stronger than last year. A lot of people have been disappointed with us this year, but look at our progression and what we have done as a club, I think it’s a lot better this season.
“We are not the surprise package now, and sometimes you can’t always have flair all the time. You rarely see us getting beaten, and popped around the pitch; we are combative and doing a job in the Championship.
“Some teams have gone up and not played well all season. Bournemouth were a one-off, because they have a style of play that suits them on their pitch.
“When Chelsea were winning the league, they didn’t play with flair all the time.
“They were big and strong, and it’s sort of a similar way they play with the philosophies of (Jose) Mourinho and Carlos.
“They try to grind out results. We have tried to play good football, there’s always an emphasis on us playing football, but you have to be strong and win the battle first.”
Injuries have severely depleted the Owls, but Hutchinson is due to return after not playing since the 5-1 hammering of Norwich City four weeks ago.
He said: “I have seen a couple of specialists, they said just rest. Because it’s on the same knee that I had all my problems, I just have to be more careful to it.
“Structurally, they said my knee was brilliant. So that was good news.”