No more 'Hutch Bingo' - A tribute to Sam Hutchinson: the man, the myth...the legend?

It was news that flew under the radar; partly because it was far from a surprise and also due to the immediate problems that arise from Steven Fletcher, Morgan Fox and Fernando Forestieri all leaving next week.

Thursday, 25th June 2020, 7:31 am

It's been a while now since Sam Hutchinson last pulled on a Sheffield Wednesday shirt and it's probably been just as long since the midfielder realised that he probably wouldn't do so again.

For many fans, yesterday's confirmation that Hutchinson was leaving S6 was like the passing of a dearly-loved pet who had been ill. You knew it was coming but that didn't make it any easier.

Sam Hutchinson was, if we are honest, on so many occasions a liability. Throughout his Sheffield Wednesday career it felt like he brought his own yellow cards and his inevitable bookings had become a running, great big slide-tackling joke ..."Who had 34 minutes?"

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Sam Hutchinson celebrates with Steven Fletcher after scoring against Reading. Pic Steve Ellis

And in thundering into those tackles you wondered if he was going to get back up to be able to face the referee, anyway.

I've lost count of the number of times I tuned to a colleague in the press box and winced at a challenge and the aftermath.

The thing is, though, you wouldn't have him any other way.

Sam Hutchinson asbolutely loved Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield Wednesday fns loved him.

Sam Hutchinson, who is leaving Sheffield Wednesday, in typical pose - flying into a challenge

This was a player who was destined for great things at his boyhood club, Chelsea, but was denied a silverware-laden career by an injury so severe that he was forced to retire aged 21.

The fact that he was able to show the strength of character to fight back from that devastating setback and rekindle his career at Wednesday is testimony to Hutchinson as a person.

None of it came easy. He has become an outspoken advocate of mental health awareness having suffered himself during those dark days when the injury looked to have shattered his dreams.

“I’m a very open person so I’ll talk about anything," he said in 2017. "I found it so helpful speaking about it – it’s like a release. Even speaking to someone you don’t know, an absolute stranger – that can be a reporter, a specialist, a doctor, someone on the street, anyone – I always think it takes a weight off you. They can give a different perspective.”

More recently he said: "I missed a lot of football and when you miss something you love you get down and I got depressed and had some really bad thoughts. Topped off with me retiring, it took me to a place where I really wasn't well."

It's clear that those experiences shaped Hutchinson and his attitude.

He threw himself into every challenge because he knew the pain it might cause couldn't possibly be as bad as what he has already felt.

But as well as that, it made the good times even better. Remember how he celebrated a scrappy last minute equaliser at Brentford in August 2016 and again after scoring against Barnsley a few months later?

"I came back into football because I’m addicted to it," he told The Star in 2017. "It is like a thrill going out and showing off in front of people. It’s what I was born to do."

Hutchinson quickly became a cult hero on S6 when brought in on loan by Stuart Gray and then signed permanently.

With the look of a lad who would end up walking away down the road with his arm around a girl you've been chatting to in a Faliraki nightclub for four hours, he was a hit right through every Hillsborough demographic.

That laissez-faire attitude that he took into tackles would come out off the pitch too. He was literally honest to a fault.

It's no surprise that he was rarely put up for interviews with the local press because he was lacking a filter, or rather he didn't care for the repercussions of his words.

When he got started, you just knew this would be a special Thursday. Good for us, not quite so much for those trying to keep things a little less salacious.

It was probably that which saw him frozen out by two different managers in Jos Luhukay and Garry Monk.

It brought about talk on the terraces that he was a 'bad apple' but I wouldn't subscribe to that theory.

Rather, I felt that Hutchinson's experiences gave him a belief that things were better off not bottled up and if he had something to say, he would say it.

Both Luhukay and Monk had been tasked with reshaping a confidence-sapped, bloated and failing squad and Hutchinson was perhaps just too outspoken.

I must stress, this is a theory but it would make sense as Hutchinson was still a popular member of the squad.

Now it's the end of the road.

It must be added that Hutchinson got as much from Wednesday as they got from him, for they gave him the platform to revitalise a career that appeared to be over.

Will he be regarded as a legend? Sentences that begin 'the word legend is overused...' are overused themselves, and perhaps Hutchinson doesn't quite fall into that category, even if there are very few in the past 20 years or so who have. He'll certainly be fondly remembered.

But now the relationship is over.

Hutchinson has still so much to offer and if Wednesday are still in the Championship next season then they should come up against their old player.

And then, fans will be able to give him the proper 'thank you and goodbye' that he deserves.

And we can all indulge in one more game of 'Hutch Bingo'.