Sam Clucas is an indispensable part of Hull’s survival fight and has enjoyed a meteoric rise since almost hanging up his boots permanently seven years ago.
Clucas’ meteoric rise
Sam Clucas worked part-time at Debenhams, a department store akin to Walmart, for a paltry $7.50 an hour in 2009. How the tide has turned for the 26-year-old.
Securing a regular first-team spot in Hull’s midfield hasn’t come easy for the Lincoln-born midfielder. Playing in England’s top five divisions in as many years, Clucas has inconceivably climbed up the soccer ranks through sheer will and determination.
Dropped by Leicester’s academy for being too small, Clucas tried to repair his frail confidence by moving on to the next opportunity. But consequent failed trials with a number of teams left Clucas a broken and forlorn figure.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Clucas recalled a particular tryout with MK Dons.
“The one which sticks out is MK Dons. I scored a hat-trick against their reserves but they said I wasn’t big enough. I thought, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it, I might as well jack this in.’”
He had to develop thick skin in a hurry, as rejection became a normal part of the teenager’s life.
Hereford offered the then-20-year-old a lifeline after he returned from a developmental stint in Spain. It was then on to League Two club Mansfield, followed by a stopgap with League One Chesterfield.
In the summer of 2015, Championship side Hull came calling, purchasing Clucas’ services for $1.8 million.
Clucas’ transformed role
Clucas played on the left wing, in an attacking role, for most of his adult life. He produced six goals and eight assists in helping Hull accomplish their Premier League promotion. But a severe lack of personnel in the lead up to the current campaign forced former manager Mike Phelan’s hand.
He moved Clucas into a defensive midfield role, which he adapted to with innate aplomb. It was probably Phelan’s most astute managerial decision, even if it was made out of pure necessity. While never the most gifted player, Clucas’ rangy physique facilitates seamless pitch coverage. He closes down opponents quickly, making space seemingly disappear.
Like all prodigious defensive midfielders, Clucas has an affinity for inflicting hardy tackles. He has committed 63 tackles so far this season, 15th most in the Premier League.
Adding to his tackling prowess, Clucas is also a regular fixture in Hull’s starting XI. The industrious midfielder has appeared in all but one Premier League clash, accumulating 2,320 minutes, the sixth most of all Premier League midfielders.
West Brom’s Darren Fletcher has amassed the most minutes of any top-flight midfielder, 108 more than his Hull counterpart.
Most impressive about Clucas’ transition is the adjustment he made with the ball at his feet. Wingers, looking to find an incisive pass or conjure up a moment of brilliance, invariably hold on to the ball longer than most other positions. The polar opposite is true of Clucas’ relatively new position.
Altering his train of thought altogether, Clucas rarely dwells in possession, distributing swiftly and with precision. He’s connecting on 84 percent of passes this season. Those are the kind of numbers you’d expect from a player of his stature in the Premier League.
Spurs’ Mouse Dembele, who, according to Who Scored, distributes most accurately of all midfielders in England’s top flight, successfully completes 92 percent of his passes.
A lot can transpire in the final 10 games of the current campaign but Clucas’ story is a success even if Hull are eventually consigned to make the drop.
But his rag-to-riches story would most certainly go down in Hull folklore if Clucas somehow manages to lead his team to a grand, yet improbable escape.
Because remember, this is a man who perpetually defies the odds. Let’s see if Hull have what it takes to follow his inspirational lead.
(This piece was originally feature on Fansided, (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images))