Amidst the diving, players refusing to play and obscene levels of money, rarely does football - especially at the top level - offer heart-warming and uplifting stories. But the tale of one Chelsea youngster is a rare shining light shimmering in a game increasingly shrouded in darkness.
During Jose Mourinho’s reign at Stamford Bridge and several years after Roman Abramovich’s gargantuan investment in the plush new Cobham training facilities and academy set-up, small buds of young, English talent were just starting to blossom in the heart of Surrey.
All the talk now surrounds the potential of the likes of Josh McEachran and Ryan Bertrand, but at four years their senior and with a tale of persistence, determination and courage already under his belt, maybe the player Chelsea fans should really start buzzing about is Sam Hutchinson.
The 22-year-old defender hung up his boots just 16 months ago, believing his short-lived playing career to be over after a succession of knee problems. But Chelsea offered him a route back into the game with a coaching contract and it was through that he realised he may be able to keep the dream alive.
After noticing he could coach without knee pains, Hutchinson began the process of resurrecting his playing career bit by bit. He was training three days on, one day off and he’s now progressed to four days on, one day off and playing regular 90 minutes for Chelsea’s reserves, of whom captained before the injuries took their toll.
These are promising signs for player, club and fans. Hutchinson was starting to edge his way into first-team contention under Mourinho after making his debut in May 2007 and became a regular face on the Chelsea bench, with four very exciting appearances for the Blues. He’s a young, versatile defender, able to switch between full-back and centre-back with ease, with an eye for a foraging run forwards – a more controlled version of David Luiz and with more controlled hair too!
And while player and club are rightly approaching his rehabilitation as a ‘one step at a time’ process, there are certainly bright signs for the future. Although Hutchinson may not be the immediate solution to Chelsea’s defensive woes, in the long-term he certainly has the potential to be John Terry’s successor, not just at centre-back but with the captain’s armband too.
Having made his comeback for the reserves in July in a friendly against Crawley Town, Hutchinson has taken another step towards securing his future on the pitch, as this week he signed a new 18-month deal with the Blues.
But it’s going to be a long road for the youngster, requiring patience from himself and common sense from the Chelsea medical staff. Though having seen the attitude with which he’s already approached his return to football and the maturity with which he’s rebounded from set-back after set-back, Chelsea fans should have no concerns about Sam Hutchinson’s desire and attitude. And should he recover the promise he showed under Jose Mourinho, it could be a very exciting future for the young defender.