email@example.com Shaun Hutchinson feels he is ready for a Millwall return after missing just under two months with a knee injury.
The Lions centre-back was an ever-present in the Championship in the 2017-18 campaign and won Millwall Supporters’ Club’s Player of the Year award.
But Hutchinson has sat out 10 matches – eight of those league fixtures – after a tear in his posterior cruciate ligament.
He managed just 16 games in their promotion season from League One, although he did come into the starting line-up for the crunch run-in.
Vice-captain Hutchinson admits his clean bill of health in the Lions’ excellent first hit at Championship life – the club finishing eighth – made his recent absence painful.
“It probably makes it worse,” he said. “Because you go from the first season of the frustrations to then playing every single game. You’re thinking: ‘I’ve turned a corner there’.
“This was an impact injury, not a muscle injury. You feel ‘here we go again – injuries popping up’ but I’m hoping this is just a one-off, that I get back fit and available for selection for the rest of the season.”
Hutchinson finished the 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday on August 22.
“The fact I did it in a game, continued and didn’t really think anything of it – it wasn’t until that night or the next morning that I thought there could be a problem there – made it a shock and not so easy to take.
“As I went to clear the ball I got a bit of an impact injury. It opened up the ligament a little bit.
“I kind of thought even going for the scan I was going to be alright but when I heard the news I had done what I did [sighs].
“But it is what it is. There was nothing I could do about it.
It was frustrating times, sitting in the stands watching. We went through a tough time not really getting results and that was hard to see.”
Hutchinson did not need to go under the knife.
“The damage was quite isolated. Normally when you do your knee a few things go in there, but it was literally just that. I got quite lucky. You’re in a brace for a little while, you’re letting the ligament heal and then you’re back to strengthening it – getting it going again.
“Initially it is just ticking off the first few days, trying to get the swelling out of the area. Icing it and following the protocol, I could do a bit of upper body gym work.
“You try and watch your diet, so you don’t put the beef on. I’m not too bad with that – it just makes it hard when you get back to get it [extra weight] off. The knee feels good now, it feels strong.”
Hutchinson played 45 minutes on Friday in an U23 fixture against Watford at The Den.
Manager Neil Harris had said last week that the former Fulham and Motherwell defender could be in contention for a return to the squad at Reading tomorrow.
Hutchinson said: “I feel ready to play 45 minutes anyway! The main thing was to get through the Watford game and see where I am. He [Harris] has got a little 11 v 11 in training this week, so hopefully that gives a bit more of an answer on that.
“If you ask me then I’ll be saying yeah I’m available – but it’s what he sees. In training I feel fine. I don’t feel I have lost too much.”
Millwall and slow starts seem to be bed fellows in recent seasons, including their promotion one when Hutchinson signed following his release by Fulham.
The urgency to rush him back has been lessened by an excellent fightback to draw 2-2 against Forest and then a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa before the international break.
“We’ve had slow starts the first two years I’ve been here and it looks like it is happening again,” said Hutchinson, whose Lions deal runs until 2020 with an option of another 12 months.
“At any other club you’d be worried. But if there is one club you aren’t then it is this one, because when the games come thick and fast at Christmas, and teams start to fatigue in the middle of the season, we seem to kick on. I’m hoping for something similar to last year. It would be nice.
“I’ve been to every home game and you can watch the midweek ones on Sky or elsewhere. It was a big relief to get that Villa win – it was massive going into the two-week break.
“It was like ‘calm down, we have got a win – now let’s go’. When you get that one win you can really kick on.
“The boys were outstanding at Forest. That was probably the turning point, because we took that momentum into the Villa game and had a really solid performance.
“It’s kind of the Millwall way to play really well away from home and not come away with what you deserve.