Sam Hutchinson glad to be back in familiar surroundings at Nottingham Forest
SAM Hutchinson had not been away for more than a few months, but much had changed when he returned to Nottingham Forest last week.
Having been back at parent club Chelsea to receive treatment on his knee injury, the defender had missed the departure of Sean O'Driscoll, the entire tenure of his replacement, Alex McLeish, and the subsequent appointment of Billy Davies.
But, when he returned to training at the Nigel Doughty Academy, Hutchinson still felt as though he had never been away.
And, when he came off the bench against Ipswich on Tuesday evening, it only renewed his appetite to help Forest achieve success this season.
"It was a nice place to walk back into. I love it because there is a family environment," said Hutchinson.
"Everyone wants to get to that main thing. If I can help with that, it would be great.
"It motivates you as a player when everyone wants the same thing.
"We all want to get into the Premier League, we all want to win games. It is not about individuals, it is about what we achieve as a team.
"We have confidence, that is the main thing. We all understand what we need to do.
"We are all comfortable in the situation, there is a togetherness."
Hutchinson only made three starts and two sub appearances, after joining on loan from Stamford Bridge, before succumbing to the effects of an on-going knee injury in September.
But, during that time, he made a significant impression, producing some outstanding performances, including scoring a match-winning goal against Charlton.
Now, having returned to action, Hutchinson is keen to make an impression under Davies. And he says he is open minded about whether that long-term future would lie at Chelsea or Forest.
"If I do well here, I will either get a chance at Chelsea or at Forest in the future, I hope," he said. "But I just want to play football.
"It has never been about my ability, it has been about my fitness.
"If I could stay fit, with my self belief, I believe I could play wherever I want to play, be that at Chelsea, Forest or anywhere else.
"I hold Chelsea very dearly in my heart, but I also hold Forest dear to me as well, because of how good they have been to me.
"I get treated really well at Chelsea, I would never say anything bad about them.
"It is more personal here, because there are fewer players. But I get looked after superbly at Chelsea as well. I have no complaints about how I have been looked after at either club.
"People are a lot worse off than me in the world – I am still lucky enough to be doing something that I love.
"If I have another five injuries to get through, I'd like to think I will still be playing football somewhere. Because it is what I love."
Hutchinson has spent the last few months recuperating at Stamford Bridge, back among the superstars of Rafa Benitez's Premier League squad.
But he says he did not call upon any of the big names there for advice about his recovery.
"I was back there two months and, to be honest, there was not a lot of advice needed from the other lads, because I am always injured, it is not something new for me," he joked.
"If anyone was giving out advice to anyone, it would probably be me giving it out!
"All the lads are great down there, I have been there for 16 years. I did actually not want to go back, because I knew people would believe I was going back there permanently.
"That was never going to be the case. Forest have made that clear all the way along.
"I was happy to come back and I am happy to be here until the end of the season.
"The aim for me is to get more game time. I am here to help, I am not in any rush.
"If the gaffer wants to put me in, then great. But I am happy to be involved. I am not going to rush anything.
"There is no hurry. I am 23-years-old but I have missed a lot of football and I am not going to chase things. I will take my chances when I can.
"I have had a good week of training, I am not fully fit, but I can do a job if I am needed."
Hutchinson's tendon problem is likely to be something he will have to deal with for the rest of his career. But it has now abated enough for him to return to action at the City Ground.
"It is still a work in progress, I have still got the issue I have. But I have to manage it," he said. "At the moment, I am doing so successfully, the physio staff have been great.
"It is a tendon problem and I don't know much more than that. It is very painful.
"If I have a couple of days off, then I train, I will be okay. But I will feel it after I have trained.
"You just have to deal with it. The adrenaline sees you through games. You are buzzing off the fans.
"They help you no end. The fans here are brilliant. They give you a lift and the pain goes away.
"I have to deal with it through the week in training, you have to motivate yourself when you are in pain.
"That is the good thing with the gaffer. He understands what I need, to prepare myself for games.
"It is not going to get any worse. To get some games into me this season is the most important thing."
Much has changed since he last started a Forest game, but it is clear that Hutchinson still maintains the same level of infectious enthusiasm.
It may be painful for him to play football, but it hurts him more when he is on the sidelines.