International A Non-Hindrance And Injury Woes

So our summer plans are confirmed, England will be heading to Russia for the World Cup, we can all look to where we will be watching the first group match, and how we are going to plot our way to an eventual knock out round heartache at the hands of the first useful opposition we come across – but those thoughts can wait for eight months – back to business of the day to day shenanigans.

The International Break had its fair share of talking points and highlights, none more so than former Blue Mohamed Salah securing Egypt’s first World Cup since Italia 90, and Iceland continuing where they left off in last years Euro’s by securing their first ever appearance at a World Cup finals, thus becoming the smallest nation since Trinidad & Tobago qualified for Germany 2006 (Quick Fire Question: What nation links these nations and playing at Tournaments? – answer at the bottom of the page).

As much as the fairytales have enthralled us, it can be viewed as a torrid time for club managers and fans hoping players come back in one piece – sadly for Antonio Conte, this was not the case.

Alvaro Morata, already on the injured list following the setback against Manchester City, has been joined in the treatment room by the engine room in midfield, N’Golo Kante; Kante hobbled off with a hamstring injury in the 34th minute in France’s 1-0 win in Bulgaria to add to Chelsea’s injury woes – Danny Drinkwater has yet to make his debut after a calf injury whilst training.

With the treatment room filling up, Hall Of Fame this week looks at two of the unlucky players that had their Chelsea careers curtailed by injury.

Sam Hutchinson – 2007 – 2014 – Appearances 6

It could be said that Sam Hutchinson has had two professional careers, having retired at the age of just 21 in 2010.

Hutchinson joined the Chelsea academy at the tender of age of nine, scouted in his hometown of Slough – David Brent territory for you Office fans – Hutchinson was following the same path as his father Eddie, who had also represented the Blues at youth level.

Hutchinson’s beginning at Chelsea pre dated Frank Arnesen’s overhaul of the Club’s academy, under which the best youngsters across Europe were handpicked for huge transfer fees.
Working his way up through the youth team set up, where his performances were earning him rave reviews, it was widely believed that Sam Hutchinson would become a senior England international of the future

Having captained England at U19 level, Hutchinson received a call-up for the U21s, his career was progressing in just the right way – picked by Jose Mourinho as ‘one for the future’ Sam Hutchinson made his senior debut for Chelsea at the age of 18 in May 2007, coming on as a substitute – who says Jose doesn’t believe in youth?! However before his Chelsea career could take off, the teenager’s promising career was curtailed by one serious injury after the other.

A chronic knee injury problem and failure to recover from his injuries were beginning to have an affect on the young man, they even led to Hutchinson becoming so frustrated that he blamed the Chelsea medical staff for his injury woes, although this was down to his own frustrations.

Hutchinson admits that his problems were not down to the care he was receiving from the club, telling The Guardian: “I just wanted to stop the pain and stop everything. I never wanted to come back. I didn’t want to play for Chelsea either because I blamed them for it, even though it wasn’t [their fault], it was just what happened.”

Following his injuries, Chelsea offered him the chance to work with the club’s academy while he undertook his studies at university.

A period out of the game saw Hutchinson make a miraculous recovery, to such an extent that Chelsea offered him a one and half year deal, which the player signed after a change of heart in 2011.

Upon his return to the club, Hutchinson would only make a couple of first team appearances before being sent on loan to Nottingham Forest in a bid to gain some regular first team experience, heartache would strike again, again with a knee injury, this time keeping Hutchinson out of action for six months.

After making a full recovery, Hutchinson was loaned to the club where most Chelsea loanees are sent, to Vitesse Arnhem, Hutchinson was recalled after only making one appearance for the Dutch side. Still not to be deterred by this latest setback, Sheffield Wednesday came calling, initially on loan, before Wednesday made the move permanent in 2014.

Hutchinson is a vital member of the Sheffield Wednesday side, unlucky in not securing promotion to the Premier League in successive seasons – but not unlucky in the sense that Sam Hutchinson is able to be playing football again.

Pierluigi Casiraghi – 1998-2000 – Appearances 10 Goals 1

Pierluigi Casiraghi arrived at Stamford Bridge from SS Lazio in the summer of 1998 for a then club record fee of £5.4million.

Chelsea and England offered the Italian striker a fresh start, scoring the only goal in the Azzuri’s World Cup play off tie against Russia, then manager Cesare Maldini – father of AC Milan legend Paolo – decided to leave Casiraghi at home, favouring the emerging powerhouse striker Christian Vieri. Chelsea were a side on the rise following the club’s most successful season since 1955 having won both the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Gianluca Vialli was looking to build on the club’s success, with new signings to mount a bid for the Premier League title. Vialli’s title charge and Casiraghi’s debut got off to the worst possible start with an opening day reverse at Highfield Road to Coventry City, while Casiraghi put in a tireless and selfish shift, typifying the style that had been successful throughout his career, only Coventry City goalkeeper Magnus Hedman denied the Italian a debut goal, thwarting him on at least three occasions.

More agony was to follow in the next match, as Casiraghi was substituted against Arsenal, after being denied a blatant penalty appeal against him, the Italian watched from the bench as his replacement Tore Andre Flo scored twice to give the Blues the win.

The moment all Chelsea fans had been waiting for duly arrived at Anfield; Casiraghi received a through ball, the striker coolly rounded David James to slide the ball into an empty net, celebrating in front of a delirious away end (hands up who winced at the thought of Phil Babb crunching the post).

The goal was not to proved the catalyst for more, far from it, only a few games later at Upton Park of all places, Casiraghi would play his last match as a professional footballer.

Throwing himself to a front post cross in an attempt to win the ball, Casiraghi collided with West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, in the aftermath of the collision it had been determined that the Italian had torn both cruciate ligaments in his knee.

Battling back from these injuries proved to be painstaking and eventually a fruitless pursuit, and after almost two years, countless operations and the conclusion that the nerve endings his knee had been damaged beyond repair, Chelsea decided to release Casiraghi.

In the ensuing years, the Italian has proved to be a more than capable coach, taking up youth roles at Italian side Monza. In 2006 Casiraghi, alongside ex-Chelsea team-mate Gianfranco Zola, took up roles in the Italian U21 set up, after Zola left for West Ham in 2008, Casiraghi took up the head coach role, but failure to qualify for the 2011 European Championships saw Casiraghi leave his post.

Casiraghi’s last role saw him again link up with Zola, this time becoming assistant manager in Zola’s ill-fated spell with Birmingham City last season.

So while the injury list is mounting up for Antonio Conte, and the situation isn’t exactly ideal, with two of our best players being on the sidelines, the cases of Hutchinson and Casiraghi pale this into insignificance.

If injuries had not been so cruel, Hutchinson and Casiraghi could have gone to have had very successful Chelsea careers – we wish N’Golo and Alvaro the speediest of recoveries to get the Blues back on track, we may bemoan the fate of our top players during international week but in the cases of Pierluigi Casiraghi and Sam Hutchinson, the situation could be far worse.

International breaks may seem a hindrance as it cuts short domestic action, but just look at the scenes in Reykjavik, Cardiff, Egypt and Nigeria, this goes to show that International football and the World Cup is not a hindrance at all.

*The answer to the quick-fire question was England*