It seems as though the weight of the world has been lifted off the shoulders of Sam Hutchinson.
Though still blighted with injury issues that will need careful management for the rest of his career, the midfielder has this season emerged as one of Sheffield Wednesday’s key men in what has been a strong campaign to date.
During the first year or so of his time with Wednesday, he would prove to be a rather surly interviewee, appearing desperate to get his press duties over and done with as quickly as possible.
But something has changed this season, coming with a quite brilliant run of form and a welcome run of decent fitness.
He spoke earlier in the campaign of being the happiest he has ever been both in and out of football – even when admitting he missed life down south.
And at lunchtime on Thursday, Hutchinson was probably the most relaxed he has ever been when placed in front of the media.
It came just a few days after his most honest interview which must have lifted some of the weight off his shoulders.
A warts and all article in a national newspaper earlier this week laid bare the mental low points which the all-action midfielder has waded through in all-too recent years.
Forced to retire from football at the age of 21 due to a degenerative knee issue, Hutchinson found himself battling depression and insomnia.
In his fascinating interview he spoke of going through six months of appointments at The Priory rehabilitation clinic and of not speaking to his family for a year as he struggled to adapt to life after football.
The 26-year-old was praised for his openess about a subject which few professional sportspeople are while still in the active stage of their careers.
On Thursday – and perhaps expectedly – he was relaxed when he was asked about the article.
“I did the piece not for people to feel sorry for me, but to raise awareness for others,” he said. “Everyone reacts differently. I reacted to certain situations that other people will.
“It was the first time I was honest with someone. I just didn’t give the same generic answer.
“I have grown up and certain issues had to be said.
“It’s made me stronger and more mature. I was always quite strong because I had to put up with the injuries.”
One point Hutchinson was keen to readdress was the importance of wife Jennifer in his recovery.
With her encouragement, he returned to football with Chelsea after a year and began building the senior career he did not think he would have,
He said: “I pushed my family away. The only one I didn’t was my wife.
“That was lucky because she saved me, pulled me out of it and made me play football again.
“Now I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been, with my kids and everything.”
Today sees Wednesday travel to face one of Hutchinson’s former clubs, Nottingham Forest, where he spent most of the 2012/13 campaign on loan, beginning less than a year after resuming his playing career.
“I loved it there,” he said. “I hit the ground running, scoring on my debut as a right back.
“I loved Forest and Nottingham, I really did like it.
“I had a bad injection from Chelsea which killed my season and I never got back.
“They had the transfer ban so it’s been hard for them in the windows.
“But they’ve got some great players and it’ll be tough.”
During a season where big name and big money arrivals have taken the headlines, Hutchinson has managed to more than show his worth as part of the Wednesday squad.
Part traditional midfield destroyer, part modern day quarterback, he is a vital part of the midfield – as reflected during his absence for the defeat to Rotherham United last weekend.
And he showed his versatility with excellent performances as a stand-in centre half.
With form frankly superb and a general acceptance from supporters that medical issues mean he will not play every game, there has been only sticking point when it comes to Hutchinson – discipline.
By November 7 Hutchinson had picked up ten yellow cards, earning a two match ban. In that time there were only five games he was not booked in.
But in the 12 games he has played since his ban, he has only been booked twice and none in the last five matches.
So has he calmed down his game?
“The only thing that has calmed me down is probably I was feeling a couple of niggles and couldn’t get around the pitch as much,” he said.
“I won’t ever calm down. It’s not my character.
“Sometimes you need it. That’s my make up and it won’t change.
“I’m not like it off the pitch. Well, sometimes I am but not to get myself into any trouble.
“That’s how I have made a career in the game thus far and I’m not going to change.”