‘I always had the ability to go far but I never had the mental strength – I couldn’t pull myself away from my friends’ – Moneyfields talisman Steve Hutchings

He started out playing alongside Southampton's Danny Ings and Wycombe's former Burnley striker Sam Vokes making his way through AFC Bournemouth's youth ranks.

By Lewis Mason
Monday, 2nd August 2021, 9:38 am
Steve Hutchings in action for Moneyfields against Fawley in  a Wessex League game in 2017.
Photo: Habibur Rahman
Steve Hutchings in action for Moneyfields against Fawley in a Wessex League game in 2017. Photo: Habibur Rahman

But Moneyfields' long-serving talisman Steve Hutchings admitted he always knew he never had the 'mental strength' to make it to the big time in football.

The prolific lower level striker made one senior appearance for the Cherries - coming on as a substitute for Vokes in a 2-0 League One home win over Millwall in March 2008 - before eventually leaving the following summer.

Hutchings in fact turned down a deal to remain after he claimed he was told Bournemouth would be unable to pay him until they had sorted out their ongoing financial difficulties.

The striker dropped into non-league to sign for Shaun Gale's Hawks in the then-Conference South for a brief period prior to spending a year out of the game completely.

It was only after being approached by Moneyfields stalwart Louis Savage that he reluctantly returned to the game - and Hutchings has proved a massive hit at the Wessex League Premier Club as he heads into his 11th season, which starts with a home Wessex League Premier game against Cowes tomorrow.

But while he has dropped down the divisions, he has seen some of his ex-academy team-mates go onto hit the big time.

Ings has played in the Premier League for Burnley, Liverpool and is currently at Southampton - where he netted 22 top flight goals in 2019-20 to finish joint second leading goalscorer alongside Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Ings has also featured for England at under-21 level and won three senior caps.

In fact, Hutchings' other former Cherries youth strike team-mate, Vokes, was in the Burnley squad in the Premier League alongside Ings for a period. In Euro 2016, he produced a superb header to seal Wales’ stunning quarter-final victory over Belgium.

But as he watched players who he shared the same pitch as a youngster hit the heights, he recognised from an early age it was never going to happen for him.

Hutchings said: ‘I always had the ability to go far but I never had the mental strength.

‘I couldn’t pull myself away from my friends - I always had FOMO, fear of missing out on things. I always had the talent but you’ve also got to have that mental strength to be at the top.

'I wasn’t willing to give that up, I’ve paid the price in a way, but I’d never regret what I did because I’m doing okay in life.

‘If it went the other way and I was in the gutter I might start thinking, ‘what have I done?’ but luckily, for me, it didn’t go that way.

‘I went all the way through the ranks and was training with people like Danny Ings, Josh McQuoid and Sam Vokes, so I was playing with a lot of good footballers.

‘It was in a time when Bournemouth were basically in a financial nightmare when Eddie Howe was the manager.

‘They basically said to me and two others they wanted to give us pro deals, the contracts were there, so stay at the club but they couldn’t pay us until they came out of administration. I think all of us decided to leave to go to clubs where we’d receive something.'

During his time with Moneyfields, Hutchings has netted a remarkable 231 times in 314 appearances.

The striker could easily have sealed a move higher up the pyramid, but he explained why he's had no interest in moving back up the leagues.

Hutchings said: ‘I came through at Bournemouth as a kid, got a pro contract, but they were in administration so they couldn’t pay anybody.

‘I was living away from home and with not much money, it was a decision I just had to make.

‘I sort of fell out of love with the game, Havant & Waterlooville approached my agent, they came up with a deal and where it was close to all my friends it was where I wanted to be.

‘I came back to Havant, didn’t really get on with the manager (Gale) - it was partly my fault, missing training and missing games - then obviously I gave up the game for a year or two

‘I then got a phone call off Louis Savage basically saying to come over and have a bit of fun, which I breed on, and it went from there.'