Norwich ace has special reason for wanting football to return after pandemic

Football fans are missing their fix with the country in coronavirus lockdown but few players are itching to return more than Norwich teenager Shae Hutchinson.

The striker was in the Arsenal academy as a five-year-old, where he was coached by his idol, Thierry Henry.

But it is Hutchinson’s inner drive and determination that are inspiring, and provide his extraordinary back-story.

He has been one of the stars of the Canaries’ Premier League U23 team – having made a comeback to the sport after missing last season because of a kidney transplant.

But now that new kidney needs to be replaced and the coronavirus pandemic means Hutchinson may have to wait a little longer. Not that that will stop him.

He told me: “People have spoken to me saying getting back and playing at a high level was inspirational.

“A lot of people have never met someone with a transplant who has gone back to professional football.

“I try to have a positive mindset and confidence which helps everything and makes it easier. Negativity isn’t good for you.

“I did have doubts at the start after my transplant because I was new to it but as the days went by it got easier.

“I was in hospital for a week. It was quite hard at the start. But I’ve been through it before and can do it again.”

The courage and desire shown by the teenager will be needed once more off the pitch after he learnt the kidney donated by his dad Gerald in 2018 is working at just 17 percent.

It would be enough to make many youngsters give up on their dream of making it as a professional footballer.

But Hutchinson has adapted to thrive, despite a hereditary condition called Alport Syndrome which was diagnosed when he was eight.

It is a condition which can affect hearing and eyesight and can require dialysis. It is one that his mother Sarah also suffers from and she needs a kidney donor, too.

Sarah has even offered to forgo a kidney from her brother to enable the NHS to offer it to another living donor in exchange for a match for Shae under the Living Kidney Sharing Scheme.

The regular quarterly review this month for potential matches looks set to be shelved because of the virus as the pair’s wait for donors continues.

Sarah, in lockdown with Shae at their family home in London, said: “I have done more worrying and he has continued playing which is what I would have preferred. I have my moments and there are times when I feel low but it might last an hour, then I keep going.

“What Shae is doing is amazing. He inspires me as well. Seeing where he has come from to where he is now is incredible. He knew early his transplanted kidney wasn’t going to work.

“There was an issue during the surgery. We are still looking for another donor. My brother is willing to help me but I have said to my brother I would rather he donate his to help get one for Shae than for me.”

Hutchinson said: “It has been challenging but I work hard every day to get back. It has been good how I have come back to football.

"Ultimately I want to get into the Norwich first team in the Premier League.

"Nothing scares me on the pitch. I just keep on going and I have always loved football, so whenever you cannot play, like at the moment, it is frustrating.”

Hutchinson’s contract is up in the summer after he joined from Arsenal as a 16-year-old in 2017.

But the striker has been led to believe Norwich may extend it for 12 months at least. The Norfolk club have been hugely supportive, especially U23s boss David Wright who helps Hutchinson cope with an additional day off in the week.

But he has already fulfilled one dream after growing up an Arsenal fan before representing the club as a kid, and was lucky enough to be coached by his idol, and the Gunners’ record scorer, Henry.

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