Dom Howson column: Sam’s always your man as long as keeps himself fit

Owls midfielder Sam Hutchinson

Owls midfielder Sam Hutchinson

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Sam Hutchinson is a very determined individual.

Three years ago, he was forced to retire with a degenerative knee condition. At the age of 21, Hutchinson appeared to have accepted his fate.

But the former Chelsea youngster is a stubborn person and defied the odds. Having adhered to a prescribed rehabilitation programme, Hutchinson returned to action in April 2012.

Knowing his first-team opportunities would be limited at Stamford Bridge, Hutchinson opted to join Wednesday on a permanent basis over the summer following an impressive loan stint at Hillsborough last season.

Hutchinson is a whole-hearted, committed player. He gets stuck in and isn’t afraid to put his head in where it hurts. His enthusiasm for the battle rubs off on his teammates.

Hutchinson is also an intelligent, adaptable footballer. He can fill in in several positions whether it’s right-back, centre-half - as he demonstrated in pre-season, or central midfield where Owls boss Stuart Gray prefers to utilise his ability.

The trouble is with Hutchinson, though, is you are never quite sure how many matches his body will allow him to play.

Gray has compared the 25-year-old to Paul McGrath. The former Republic of Ireland international was one of Gray’s teammates at Aston Villa.

“Paul had to pack it in because of his knee injury,” said Gray. “It is not as bad as that with Sam but we have to manage him.”

Hutchinson claims he trains every day “more or less”. “I have the odd day off and may do swimming instead but he [Gray] understands the type of player I am,” said the Londoner. “Now I seem to have the right balance. Stu lets me judge my body. He has done the same with Chris Kirkland. Our responsibility is to be fit enough to play and he trusts us.”

Hutchinson came off in Tuesday’s draw against Millwall because of a back problem. Tomorrow’s trip to Middlesbrough could be a watershed moment in his career. If Hutchinson plays, it will be the first time ever he has featured in three matches in a week.

When he is not injured, Hutchinson is a huge asset to Sheffield Wednesday. He is a dynamic, all action player. Gray would love to build his team around him, but can Hutchinson remain out of the treatment room long enough to make the difference?