Brighton and Huddersfield full back went on managerial merry go round

Hutch prog cover 1987

CHRIS Hutchings, who was 60 this July, is better known to today’s football followers as a manager or, on no less than four occasions, assistant manager to Paul Jewell.

Back in the 80s, though, he played full back for Brighton for four years before moving on to Huddersfield Town for a three-year spell.

Born in Winchester, Hutchings was on Southampton’s books as a youngster but they didn’t keep him on and he became a bricklayer while playing part-time football with Harrow Borough.

A £10,000 fee took him to Chelsea in 1980 where he played 101 games for them over three years. In an interview in an Albion matchday programme, Hutchings recalled his Chelsea debut as a favourite football moment.

“We were away to Cardiff and I travelled with the team as sub,” he said. “One of the lads got injured in the first half and I was straight into the action. It was a great day for me. Everything seemed to go right. I was playing in midfield. We won 1-0. I scored the winner and I even had another ‘goal’ disallowed. I’ll never forget that match.”

It was in November 1983 that he signed for Brighton for £50,000 and he has a place in the Albion history book Seagulls, The Story of Brighton & Hove Albion FC (by Tim Carder and Roger Harris) for an incident when playing for Chelsea in their first ever league visit to The Goldstone earlier that season.

There had been trouble in Brighton the night before the game when rival fans clashed and 8,000 Chelsea fans swelled the crowd to 20,874, infiltrating all parts of the ground (the picture shows how tightly packed fans were in the North Stand).

albion v chelsea

“At the final whistle the hooligans invaded the pitch from all unfenced areas to launch a vicious assault on the hopelessly outnumbered police,” the history book recalls.

It was only the arrival of a police horse that finally managed to quell the disorder by which time seven policeman were injured and the North end goal broken.

The Sports Minister of the time ordered an inquiry and both clubs were cleared of blame. But Hutchings was charged with threatening and abusive behaviour for swearing at police trying to clear the pitch.

Two months later, after Chris Cattlin had taken over from Jimmy Melia, Hutchings was one of three new players he brought in (Steve Penney and Danny Wilson were the others).

He had yet to appear before Hove magistrates. And he was in further trouble on the pitch when he was one of five Albion players sent off before the New Year.

Eventually the court fined him £250 although Hutchings’ version of events was that all he did was to applaud the Chelsea fans and when a policeman told him to get off the pitch he told him to f**k off!

Like his manager, Hutchings was able to play right or left back. Generally he featured on the left side, although in the 1985-86 season Graham Pearce had a long run as no.3 and Hutchings wore no.2.

In a Tony Norman interview for the programme in 1985, it was revealed Hutchings was quite the handyman about his house in Rottingdean. He was into painting and decorating, and wasn’t averse to a spot of simple car maintenance either.

When Cattlin – and Pearce – left the Albion in the summer of 1986, Hutchings returned to the left back spot under Alan Mullery and carried on there when Barry Lloyd took over.

In January 1987, just days after Lloyd had taken over from Mullery, Albion were in the lower half of the third tier and the crowds had slumped to below 10,000.

Hutchings told interviewer Tony Norman: “Nothing would make me happier than to see the side playing to its full potential and big crowds returning to the Goldstone.

“When the stadium is packed, it’s a great place to play football.”

However, as part of the wholesale changes brought about by Albion’s relegation, Lloyd signed Keith Dublin from Chelsea as his first choice left back, and Hutchings was put on the transfer list.

He wasn’t done with the Albion quite yet, though, and played the first four months of that Third Division season in midfield before eventually moving on to Huddersfield.

He played more games for Albion – 174 – than any of the other clubs he represented. One of his teammates at Huddersfield was a familiar face from his Goldstone career: Kieran O’Regan, who was a Town regular for six seasons.

After making 110 appearances for Huddersfield, Hutchings joined Walsall for a season, in 1990-91, playing 40 games. Next stop, between 1991 and 1994, he played 78 times for Rotherham United.

On packing up playing, he started coaching the Millers youth team but then had a spell out of the game, becoming a second hand car salesman.

His first step into management came at Bradford City, becoming assistant to Chris Kamara, the Sky TV pundit who was manager of the Yorkshire club at the time.

When Kamara was replaced by Jewell, Hutchings stayed on as part of a duo who would subsequently crop up at a variety of clubs in the coming years.

Arguably the pair’s greatest success was getting Bradford promoted to the Premier League. During the 2000-01 season, when Jewell moved to Sheffield Wednesday, Hutchings briefly took charge and must have enjoyed securing a 2-0 win over Chelsea (although the result was too much for the Stamford Bridge hierarchy, who promptly sacked their manager, Gianluca Vialli).

However, the joy was shortlived because it was the only win in 12 Premier League games and Hutchings was sacked after being in charge for just 137 days.

As several media outlets pointed out earlier this season, it might have been a brief tenure but it wasn’t as short as Frank de Boer’s at Palace!

Next stop for Jewell and Hutchings was Premier League Wigan Athletic between 2001 and 2007. As happened at Bradford, when Jewell resigned in May 2007, Wigan chairman Dave Whelan handed over the managerial reins to Hutchings.

“He’s one of the best and most knowledgeable coaches in the Premiership,” said Whelan.

But after six successive defeats, and Wigan floundering in the bottom three, he was sacked in November 2007 – a 2-0 loss to Chelsea being the final straw for Whelan.

His route back into football, in January 2008, was briefly to assist caretaker manager Chris Brass at Bury on a voluntary basis, but, by April, he was linking up with Jewell once again, this time at Derby County.

The pair were with the Championship club less than a year, however, and when Jewell went in December 2008, Hutchings had just one game as caretaker before Nigel Clough took over the helm, and Hutchings left the club.

He wasn’t out of work for long, though, because one of his old clubs, Walsall, took him on as no.1 in his own right in January 2009. With Martin O’Connor as his assistant, the pair had two years with the League One club.

The chop came in January 2011 with The Saddlers bottom of League One, eight points adrift from safety.

Chairman Jeff Bonser told the Walsall website: “Their preparation and professionalism has been second to none but we are in a results business.

“Chris and Martin have both worked extremely hard during their time at the club.

“They have both been professional throughout and conducted themselves with great dignity in what have been difficult times.”

A fortnight later, Hutchings was back in work, linking up once more with Jewell, this time at Ipswich Town, who had parted company with Roy Keane.

The pair managed to steer Town clear of relegation but the 2011-12 season was one of struggle and they finished in a disappointing 15th place.

Jewell was unable to bring in the players he wanted during the summer and instead signed eight on loan. It was not a recipe for success and, by October 2012, Ipswich were bottom of the Championship.

Jewell departed and Hutchings remained in caretaker charge until Ipswich appointed Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor.

In July 2013, with Hutchings not having found a route back into league football, he took on the role of no.2 at Shropshire non league outfit Market Drayton Town.

When Shrewsbury Town replaced Graham Turner with caretaker manager Mike Jackson in February 2014, Hutchings was recruited as a coach to assist with training.

However, a month later his old Brighton teammate Danny Wilson, who had taken over as manager at League One Barnsley, took Hutchings to Oakwell as his assistant manager.

Wilson told the club website: “Chris has been a friend and confidant over many years since playing together. Chris has done very well with clubs at all levels that he has worked at.

“His experience will be invaluable as we go into the final ten games of the season and I am delighted that he has come to help us out.”

On Valentine’s Day the following year, the pair were chopped. The club were 17th in League One having won only 10 of their 29 games at that point.

Hutchings was a popular subject for the Brighton matchday programme producers, often appearing on covers and featuring in the player profile feature. The pictures are a selection of these. Plus a couple of headlines from his managerial career.

 

 

 

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