Norwich City Under-23s defender Jordan Thomas has praised his fellow U23s teammate Shae Hutchinson, a sufferer of Alport Syndrome, as one of the most committed players he’s ever known.
Hutchinson is currently in need of a kidney transplant, as he operates on just 17% kidney function. Despite this, he has continued to train and play matches just like anyone else in City’s Academy system, up until the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Out of all the boys I know who play football, he is probably one of the most dedicated players, he takes his game so seriously.” Thomas said.
“The amount of times we’d sit down together and watch each other’s clips from the games we’ve played, we’d constantly talk about our performances days after.
“Going into training we talk about our relationship, me playing full-back and him playing striker and how we can complement each other, like him making the runs. He’s so dedicated and committed to becoming the best he can be.
“You forget about his condition on the pitch, because of how good he is. He puts his body to the limits. After the game you reflect and wonder how he got through the game at such a high intensity and not look out of place once.
“Anyone that doesn’t know about his condition wouldn’t see it at all from his game, because he’s so quick and so athletic. Our relationship on the pitch is great to play with him because he’s so fast, so he can get in behind and get on the end of your passes. His pace is frightening, which is a massive benefit to myself as well as him.”
Hutchinson has spoken out about his condition before, revealing it can cause him to fatigue quicker, affect his hearing, and blur his vision. Speaking on this, Thomas claims seeing Hutchinson continue to give 100% motivates him to do the same.
“I think it really makes me grateful for everything I have,” added Thomas. “In the sense that I’m completely healthy and haven’t got any conditions he’s suffers from.
“It also makes you think, when you get down sometimes if things aren’t going great or I’m injured here or there, I look at Shae and see he’s giving it everything and really can’t do much about his condition right now.
“He makes me want to work even harder, I see him and think if he’s working as hard as he is, I should be working just as hard because I have no excuses.”
Due to his condition making him more vulnerable to COVID-19, Hutchinson has been required to self-isolate for a much longer period of time than most.
Discussing the mental side of his condition, in relation to last week's Mental Health Awareness Week, Thomas says he makes sure to check on his fellow teammate often to remind him of the progress he’s making, despite the pandemic.
“I think you read a lot of things now and see that football is so big on the mental side. In my opinion, football is 80% mental and 20% physical.
“He has to do his exercises to stay fit, which is obviously much more difficult when you have to stay indoors. After them sessions when I’ve spoken to him, he does feel better about himself.
“He does struggle sometimes, but that’s why he’s got me, his other friends and his family there to talk to. It is really tough for him now, but he’s getting through it. My side of things is just to keep reminding him how well he’s been doing before this pandemic.
“If he knuckles down through this period, which is even tougher for him to not be able to go out, then the reward after will be much sweeter and he’ll thank himself for working so hard in this period.”
The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week was around kindness, asked about any times the pair have ‘gone the extra mile’ for each other. Thomas revealed that due to being without a car, Hutchinson had gone out of his way several times to pick him up when needed most.
“I haven’t had a car for the past six months and he’s been there, even though he still has to go back to London for his appointments and things. He’s always been there to pick me up from training even if I’ve been there and he hasn’t, he’s gone out of his way to come and get me.
“Even when we have time off and go back to London, we live in opposite sides of London, but he’ll pick me up from a train station and we’ll drive up together.
“He’s always going that extra mile for me and helping me out, and it works vice versa because I did the same for him when I had my car and he didn’t, so it’s a really good relationship we have.”