How Sam Clucas has established himself as Hull's unlikely catalyst
Hull City, the threadbare B-listers in a league of immeasurable wealth and pomp, maintained their impressive start with a 2-0 win away to Swansea. The Yorkshire side have already vanquished last season’s champions, and record signing Abel Hernandez once again stole the headlines for the unfashionable Tigers with the winner against their Welsh hosts.
Upon second glance, Hull’s relegation-tipped side don’t look too desperately short on Premier League quality. Dead-ball wizard Robert Snodgrass provides bullets for Uruguayan hotshot Hernandez. Tom Huddlestone is a trusted ball-playing midfield base, while young Scottish full back Andrew Robertson remains hotly tipped. However, a name that remains rather anonymous is that of Sam Clucas. Tucked into the left of Mike Phelan’s midfield three, Clucas provides more than graft and hard running in the center of the park, his rustic spark and flickering temperament are testament to his incredible footballing story.
Signed on as a teenager by Lincoln City, then of League Two, the former Leicester youth product was living the dream in the Football League. However, the young red-headed talent was unable to break into Chris Sutton’s first team. Moves to non-league teams were scuppered due to League bureaucracy, and Clucas’ football dreams were fizzling by the summer of 2010. Released by Lincoln, Clucas was handed a life-line by the Glenn Hoddle Academy; a system designed to reinvigorate the careers of young footballers released by Football League clubs. Farmed out to subsidiary club Jerez Industrial in Spain, by November the Lincolnshire man had signed on with Hereford United.
Hereford’s relegation into the Conference that year provided the perfect platform for Clucas’ phoenix-ing career, disappointment breeding opportunity. From the dark climbs of non-league, Clucas’ star once again rose. A first team regular for the Bulls, the Lincoln native won himself an England C call-up by the season’s end. Moves to Mansfield and Chesterfield cemented his reputation in League Two and League One, and his transfer to Hull in 2015 marked the culmination of his footballing journey.
In the Championship, Clucas became Bruce’s trusted servant on the left of the midfield. Not as sparkling as Snodgrass, nor as explosive as Diame, Clucas demonstrated an intense work-rate coupled with an incredibly mature appreciation of the balance of play to add a different dimension to the Hull midfield. He fought his way to being Bruce’s first choice lieutenant off the bench, and occasionally appeared from the start on the left of the former United man’s 4-2-3-1.
With the departure of Diame to Newcastle this summer, and the demand for further midfield nous in the breathless Premier League, Clucas has reinvented himself as a grafting center-midfielder. Now first choice, the injury to Michael Dawson forcing Jake Livermore into defense notwithstanding, Clucas has turned in some impressive displays in the middle of the park. Acclaimed for his ability to cover the fullback when playing as a left-winger, Clucas is at home clogging passing lanes down the left side of the pitch. While his pace is minimal and pizzazz in front of goal still shows shades of non-league, the Lincoln man’s graft and passing range serve as nostalgic reminders of all that is good about English footballing culture. A visit from Manchester United next week will test the resolve of Hull’s dogged side, but one would trust Mike Phelan and his swashbuckling midfield general will take no prisoners.
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