Tasked with the job of anchoring Sheffield Wednesday’s midfield, Sam Hutchinson has relished the challenge and is probably playing the best football of his Owls career.
The 26-year-old delivered another accomplished performance in Saturday’s home draw with Hull City, giving much needed protection to Carlos Carvalhal’s backline.
Hutchinson was intelligent in possession, snapped into tackles and kept things effectively ticking over in the centre as Wednesday more than matched a side who plied their trade in the Premier League less than six months ago.
As the Owls’ chief midfield enforcer, he made a number of key interceptions and challenges to disrupt the Tigers forward forays.
Carvalhal told The Star: “All teams need a player with the characteristics of Sam. We can’t just play with a lot of creative players.
“To give freedom to Ross Wallace, Barry Bannan and Kieran Lee, someone must care about the balance. At this moment, Sam is the player doing that, but Jose Semedo and Alez Lopez have also done that fantastic in the past.
“I like these kind of players who understand the tactical environment. They keep the balance.
“These kind of players fans and journalists don’t look too much to them because they are not the players who score goals, but they are very important for the coaches and team.”
A series of injury problems have hindered Hutchinson’s progress throughout his time at Hillsborough.
But the former Chelsea youngster has already started 10 times this season and Carvalhal believes the way they now train is keeping him out of the treatment room.
“We are doing fantastic work with him as he didn’t play too many games last season,” said the Portuguese. “He is training normal now.
“He wants to play Tuesday and Friday but I must decide, not him. He is a player that I must care for and protect him sometimes in training.
“He answers with a very good attitude in the game and is having a fantastic season. I am very happy with what he is doing. He gives a lot of energy to the team, but at the same time is a very good player.
One thing Hutchinson is is card happy. He is prone to the occasional reckless lunge and has collected seven cautions in 11 outings. The Slough-born player is three bookings away from triggering a two-match suspension, having already served a one-match ban. But would Carvalhal change Sam the man?
He said: “I never talk to Sam about the yellow cards and the way he picks them up. Most of them have been for the benefit of the team.
“He has been aggressive sometimes to cut the counter attack and we need a player like this. If I tell him to be careful and not to pick up yellow cards, he won’t break up the counter attacks and the opponents are through on goal. I prefer he takes a yellow card than the opponents get through. I need Sam exactly like this. He needs to change absolutely nothing and must keep doing what he is doing.”
Is Hutchinson as combative in training?
Defender Tom Lees said: “Sam is pretty chilled in the week. Fans probably won’t believe that as they only get to see him play on a Saturday where he runs around like a mad man! But I think his performances have been really good and he gives us great energy so hopefully he can carry that on.”