Alan Biggs: Could the answer to the gaps in Sheffield Wednesday's squad be staring Owls in the face?
Three qualities required when '“ and if '“ signings surface on Sheffield Wednesday's summer agenda. Pace going forward. Power in midfield. Strength at centre half.
Strange to think, the Owls already have a player who answers two of those three. Midfield sort required? Think no further than Sam Hutchinson. Type of centre back needed?
Well, erm, Sam Hutchinson?
Ask Hillsborough fans who would be the first name on their teamsheet and the answer from most, and with good reason, would surely be Fernando Forestieri.
Given other circumstances, it might well be the man who’s so far had twice as many mentions in this column.
No factor other than the hope for sustained brilliance from Forestieri will have a bigger bearing on Wednesday’s prospects than the personal fortunes of a former Chelsea youngster who has made just 93 starts in the four-and-a-half years since he arrived at the club, initially on loan.
But for that stat, the Owls would not be seeking greater physical presence at the heart of the side or maybe a leader at the back, either. Hutchinson has shown, when not injured or suspended, that he can do both jobs superbly. And he is still only 28.
Which leads back to the question of where you would play him. For me (as previously argued here) there is only one answer to this. It has to be the position where he is least likely to be injured or suspended. Centre back.
Take away the twin reasons why Hutchinson has too often been sidelined and my suggestion would be different. Right at the heart of the side is where you’d love to see him on a regular basis.
He’s a wonderful all-round player, capable of being as creative as he is combative and, above all, possessing those driving qualities of personal leadership that the side has too often lacked in the immediate past.
Jos Luhukay clearly has the same view. It was in midfield, before a complete team changeover, that Hutchinson played the first half of last weekend’s friendly win at Lincoln City. If he can stay fit and firing, no problem at all with that. If...
History bleakly suggests an unfortunate breakdown at some stage or a suspension disrupting both his and the side’s momentum. The head coach is in a better position than any of us to make a judgment, and far better qualified, but dare I proffer a more pragmatic view from outside.
Where are you likely to gain most from Hutchinson? Is it that other position in need of strengthening amid a restriction on recruitment and the failure to clinch a deal for Frederico Venancio.
It’s backed by the view of Owls-supporting referee authority Keith Hackett, who has long exhorted Hutchinson to adapt his approach and warns: “He has to change his game because the game won’t change for him.”
That is hard to countenance for a player with an ultra-competitive nature at his core. In midfield, at least. At the back, he has the play in front of him.
He can make more calculated judgments, knowing that to dive in would often risk a penalty. And consider this, he is capable of playing from the back as an accomplished passer.
Whatever the role, one hope to end; that Hutchinson can play 40 odd games. Now that would go one heck of a long way towards a good season at S6.