Alan Biggs: How Sam Hutchinson has struck the right balance at Sheffield Wednesday

Sam Hutchinson's move from midfield to defence has been a success
Sam Hutchinson's move from midfield to defence has been a success

It’s the kind of dilemma reserved only for very good players.

Is Sam Hutchinson most valuable to Sheffield Wednesday in his current central defensive role? Or should he be redeployed in a midfield appearing to lack a physical edge?

Hutchinson is Wednesday’s player of the season so far, in the eyes of many. Complicating the debate is that his present usage may have provided a solution in one hit to the three major question marks hanging over his career.

1/ Can he stay fit and playing? 2/ Can he avoid regular cards and suspensions? 3/ What is his best position?

Not necessarily in that order but question one is fundamental to everything and the answer to question three seems to have solved question two.

That’s also the opinion of a former Wednesday centre back who admires the way Hutchinson, in that role, is putting together the best run of his Hillsborough career and showing why ex boss Stuart Gray gambled on his fitness record.

Gray, now coaching a Fulham side level with Wednesday in the race for the top six, may allow himself some quiet satisfaction about that when the Owls visit Craven Cottage on Saturday.

Injuries and suspensions have blighted Hutchinson’s past. Across four seasons and limited appearances at Wednesday, the 27-year-old has accumulated four red cards and 29 yellows.

One of those reds occurred this season but his three yellow cards, in 14 appearances, is not out of the way.

This has coincided with a regular run at centre back, the position in which he developed at Chelsea before becoming a combative midfielder.

And it was in the latter role he ran into trouble, holding out against some pretty strong advice to rein in his resolve to win almost impossible challenges.

But that is also a major strength of his game and Miguel Llera, a star of the Owls’ last promotion, reckons the right balance is now being struck.

“Sam can judge his tackling better from the back,” says Llera, still involved with Wednesday in a junior coaching role.

“Rather than the play being all around him, he can see it in front of him. I think it’s his natural position.

“The problem he had at the beginning was plenty of injuries but now he can play two games a week, which is a massive boost for the club. He has everything to be a centre back. He’s quick and good with the ball, aggressive and reads the game well.

“The thing he has maybe to measure is his tackling. At times he gets too many yellow cards and when you have one yellow you are under pressure all the time.

“He’s very passionate and enthusiastic, so it’s difficult to manage that situation. You try to tell him but the decision-making in football happens very quickly.”

And turnarounds can happen quickly too.

Hopefully Wednesday and Hutchinson can achieve one together.