Belfast Telegraph

Sam Clucas happy to be punching his weight in the Premier League once more

Sam Clucas has no worries about filling Gylfi Sigurdsson's shoes at Swansea after fighting his way from Debenhams to the Premier League.

Swansea started spending the £45million Everton paid for Sigurdsson by handing over £15m to Hull this week for 26-year-old Clucas.

The deal could rise to a club-record £16.5m with potential add-ons, but that figure or the fact that Icelandic playmaker Sigurdsson was his predecessor in the Swansea midfield does not faze Clucas.

Nor perhaps should it when considering that Clucas has had to battle his way to the top after being released by Leicester as a youth because he was deemed too small.

It is an extraordinary journey which has taken in non-league football, the Glenn Hoddle Academy and the cafe at Lincoln's Debenhams branch.

"The price tag is not something I think about," Clucas said.

"I just got out there and play football and if a club puts that value on me and another wants to pay it then it's out of my hands.

"It's the same (with Gylfi), I'm my own player, he's his own player. We have got our differences.

"The gaffer (Paul Clement) and the club like what they've seen in me, so I'm going to play my own game and not try and fill other people's shoes."

Clucas' story is a Boys' Own tale of yesteryear when players made the football grade the hard way and did not achieve stardom through celebrated academies.

The Lincoln lad scored plenty of goals in Leicester's youth teams, but he was considered too slight to succeed. Even tests that predicted he would rise to the 6ft 2ins he is today were ignored.

So Clucas ended up having countless trials up and down the land, the only result being that his confidence was shot before he found a home in the Lincolnshire Leagues when he was not serving tea and coffee at Debenhams.

"I was top scorer and getting rave reviews at Leicester as a kid but my height always counted against me," Clucas said.

"I was a late developer, a small kid, and they said they could not take the risk on me.

"I had trials with 10 or 12 clubs, I remember having one at MK Dons and scoring a hat-trick against their reserve team.

"But they never called me as they felt I was too small. I wondered what I had to do."

Clucas' football salvation came when he won a place at the Glenn Hoddle Academy.

He spent 18 months in Spain developing both physically and mentally.

Spells at Hereford, Mansfield and Chesterfield followed before Hull paid £1.3m for his services in the summer of 2015. Just over a year later he was in the Premier League.

"I had worked at Debenhams and they were long days," Clucas said. "I lost all my confidence in football and did a sports development course in the hope of becoming a PE teacher.

"But when you get picked up by someone of Glenn Hoddle's stature, from maybe a thousand players to go to his academy, it's a huge boost.

"Ever since then I've kicked on and gone up the levels."

Clucas, however, suffered more disappointment last season when Hull were relegated from the top flight, losing out to Swansea in the final weeks of the campaign.

Hull actually went down at Crystal Palace on the penultimate weekend, and it is at Selhurst Park where he could make his Swansea debut on Saturday.

"We were arch-enemies last season, I would be looking at Swansea's fixtures and hoping they would get beat," Clucas said.

"I was so pumped to try and stay up and I thought we were going to do it for the most of the season.

"Once you've had a taste of the Premier League you want to get back there.

"I did not want to be a one-season wonder who did okay there. I wanted another crack and I am fortunate to have it."

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