Omari Hutchinson: Ipswich, debuting against Man City & praise from Pele

7 March 2024 0 By Total Football News

From making his senior debut against Manchester City, to being praised for his skills as a youngster by none other than Pele, Omari Hutchinson has experienced a lot already.

Just 20, the winger is making quite the impression on loan at Ipswich Town this season, his first in the men’s game, but we start by reflecting back on last January.

“I wasn’t really expecting it, to be honest,” Hutchinson tells Sky Sports. On January 5, 2023, he was thrust into the final 20-odd minutes of a Premier League game against Manchester City by then-Chelsea boss Graham Potter.

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“I thought I was going to make my debut against another team! My family were in the crowd and to see the likes of Haaland, De Bruyne and Grealish on the pitch – it was a great experience, and a bit surreal.

“I think my nerves got the best of me, but if you look at my development now from that game as well, I think if I stepped onto that pitch now against Man City, I would do a lot better.”

Image: Omari Hutchinson made his senior debut against Manchester City in the Premier League last season

There is no doubting that Hutchinson has come on leaps and bounds at Ipswich as they fly high in the Championship. Skill, flair and pace and a rapidly-developing end product, all under the tutelage of Kieran McKenna.

He has even seen the development within himself.

“I didn’t know how it was going to pan out, but I’m really enjoying myself here,” Hutchinson says. “The staff members, the players here, it’s like a family.

“I was just in that 21s-type mode when I first got here. I’m learning all the time. My game awareness, my defensive side, my attacking side. And how to recover. Eating, sleeping right.

“From when I first joined to now, I think I’ve made a huge improvement. I was just doing one game a week, now it can be three sometimes.”

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Omari Hutchinson scored a vital late equaliser for Ipswich against West Brom in February

It has been a real step up in intensity. But he has been managed well, with the majority of his 34 league appearances this season coming from the bench.

“It’s frustrating for any player not starting every game, but I understand why,” Hutchinson admits. “When I come on I’m always going to make an impact, whether I get 10 minutes, 20 minutes or 30 minutes.

“But I can sometimes get an insight being sat on the bench, looking at my full-back and how I can get at him and nullify him.

“And sometimes when I come on, I’ve got more energy than them and it can make it easier for me.”

His stats can attest to that. Hutchinson has 10 league goal involvements this season, and five of those have come from the bench.

Image: Hutchinson was part of Arsenal’s academy before joining Chelsea

It is also the enjoyment he brings the crowd that has won over the fans at Portman Road. Hutchinson has improved massively in terms of his defensive attributes this season, but he has never stopped bringing the creativity and excitement that McKenna wants from him.

His background in futsal as a kid has helped him work out how to play his way out of tight spaces. He can wriggle away from a marker from a position where such a feat looks impossible.

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Simeon Gholam and David Prutton look ahead to Cardiff vs Ipswich on the Sky Sports Championship Predictions podcast

“I like to entertain the crowd,” he says. “When I was a kid I loved watching the likes of Neymar, Ronaldinho, Romario, Messi and Coutinho on YouTube. And always in different positions because I used to play everywhere across the front three.

“Playing futsal was probably when I was happiest. It was so fun. I was always learning new tricks, learning how to get out of tight situations, receiving the ball in different ways – with the sole, either side of my foot, or doing flip-flaps.

“It helped me massively with my technique. I think a lot of kids should play it. It will help their game as they get older.”

It also helped him get noticed at a young age while part of Arsenal’s academy. While playing in a youth tournament as a 12-year-old, Pele was watching on, and the legenadary Brazilian was left impressed by what he saw.

“It was a crazy experience,” Hutchinson reminisces, with a smile on his face. “He was at Brentford training ground and we were playing a tournament, and at the end of it they told one player from each team to do some skills.

“I didn’t really want to go up, but everyone just sort of pushed me up. So I did my skills, and then we took a group photo with him, and he said I could rest on his knee.

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Omari Hutchinson scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner in Ipswich’s 4-3 win over Rotherham

“It just made me so happy, because my grandma loves Pele as well. She always gets me Pele books, Pele posters.”

It is that smile, that love for the game and that desire to entertain that makes Hutchinson such a joy to watch. He is undoubtedly one to watch in the near future.

Watch Omari Hutchinson and Ipswich Town continue their Championship push away to Cardiff City live on Sky Sports Football and Main Event on Saturday from 12pm, kick-off 12.30pm

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