Chris Hutchings has a remarkably sunny countenance for a manager who has lost five on the run, faces Chelsea today and received graphic evidence from nearby Bolton that the security of tenure in Premier League management is not all it might be.
The pragmatic 50-year-old Hutchings was once a Chelsea player. He was a bricklayer playing part-time for Harrow Borough, and the big London clubs enjoyed playing there pre-season. When Tottenham arrived, Geoff Hurst also descended from Chelsea – to look at a few of the Spurs players, as Hutchings recalls. He caught Hurst's eye, Chelsea watched him twice more and came in with a £5,000 offer. "You could do that for £5,000 back then but those days are gone now," Hutchings said.
Even he seemed unaware this week of quite what a place he retains in the affections of those who followed Chelsea long before the Abramovich millions rolled in. Hutchings played in the side which came from behind to grab a 2-2 draw at the old Burnden Park, Bolton, on May 7, 1983, in a game which would have seen Chelsea slip from the old Second Division had they lost. Many believe that the then chairman, Ken Bates might have folded the club had that happened, so it is little surprise that Hutchings' part in one of the goals that day has consigned him to legend, along with Micky Droy, Ian Brittain, Clive Walker et al.
Of course, he still feels like the poor relation as his enriched old employers arrive in town. Life in football remains just as precarious, too. After a promising start in Paul Jewell's hot seat, including a display that deserved more than a defeat at home to Liverpool, the galling 3-2 loss at Birmingham last week left the side two points off the bottom.
Wigan have not picked up a point since the talismanic striker Emile Heskey suffered his metatarsal break on 15 September and Hutchings needs him back in a hurry, though it may take a further two weeks. Hoping that Marcus Bent recovers from a sickness bug, Hutchings wants his side to show more discipline than at St Andrew's.
There is a huge reservoir of support for Hutchings in the dressing room, with the midfielder Antoine Sibierski impressed by the manager's determination to keep playing a creative game and not be panicked. But in these precarious times, the manager is keeping his options open. "I keep my hand in with the bricklaying," he joked. "The bucket and the old spirit level's still there in the garage."Reuse content