Firstly, massive congratulations to Sam on his move back to the Premier League. It’s always nice to see an ex-Imp do well, and even though we haven’t seen any benefit of him passing through our club, he is a nice lad and he deserves his big move.
I’ve seen a few comments and tweets about Chris Sutton getting rid of him, I know some were tongue in cheek (Oz in particular) but others have been genuine, lamenting Chris and his judgement. Perhaps I would have been amongst those ranks a few years ago, but with the clarity of time I’ve come to realise that unfortunately, with the type of game football is, these things will happen. There are a multitude of reasons that we shouldn’t be having a pop at Chris Sutton over this, and similarly a whole host of things we are far better using against the manager-turned-pundit.
Before I continue I’d like to put on the record that I do not like Chris Sutton. I do not believe that he would have taken us down, in fact had he not been a stubborn and withdrawn character then I think he had the attributes to do relatively well as a lower league manager. He did know a player, and whilst he farmed out Clucas and Richard Butcher, he brought players like Davide Somma and Matthew Saunders to the club. He had a vision which, ultimately, he didn’t believe in. I think that was a shame because had he stuck with it and learned to work under the conditions set by a struggling League Two side, I think he could have done okay.
At the time he released Sam Clucas he was struggling to find the budget necessary to carry the club forward. It was December 2009 that he announced he was transfer listing Clucas, wanting instead to bring in players such as Chris Herd and Delroy Facey. The harsh reality is this; at the time Sam was a young lad perhaps not ready for first team football. We were in League Two, and the danger of relegation was real. We saw the following season what can happen when young, inexperienced players are put in a high-pressure situation. Think Elliott Parish.
In March 2010 Sam almost joined Lincoln Moorlands Railway on loan, but the deal fell through. Once again budget was at the top of Sutton’s priorities list, it was around the same time that Davide Somma joined the club. He wasn’t a bad player, was he? We needed players who could produce the goods right there, players who were perhaps already of a certain level. We might have ruined Sam for his entire career had we dropped him into that midfield. At the time I was angry, I felt our own youth could do the same job as that of a Premier League side, but the truth is probably very different.
If it could have been arranged I’m sure a loan move to a National League side would have been a good thing, but at the time perhaps even they felt they needed something different to young Sam. He wasn’t a big strong lad, he was a boy waiting to develop and I don’t truly believe that Chris Sutton let him rot away without a care in the world. Sutton was a lot of things, bottler, gutless, abrasive and (apparently) tough to work with, but he was not a fool. He did understand football, he did understand what Lincoln City needed at the time and I fear it was his personality and not his knowledge that let him down.
When Sam left us he wasn’t a Football League quality player, and with the greatest of respect not one of the armchair pundits that have been talking about it recently spotted he would go on to be the most expensive player to ever pass through Lincoln City. I’ll hold my hands up I thought the next shirt we’d see him in would be a Lincoln United one, and after he hopped over to the Glenn Hoddle academy I thought no more of him. Even when he turned up at Hereford my only thought was ‘good on him’, sticking to his dream and finding a level that suited him.
Since then his rise has ben superb, he is clearly a more rounded and developed player. He’s worked hard, he’s listened to advice and he’s adapted his game. He chose a craft at a young age and he’s become better and better at it. I’m sure when Leonardo Da Vinci did a doodle with wax crayons at six-years old his Mum didn’t put it in a frame or on the wall, it probably got stuck on the fridge and thrown away when he forgot about it. Sometimes latent talent has to be nurtured and developed, and in the case of Sam Clucas that is exactly what has happened.
Just to complete a 360 of earth shattering proportions, the one man who really should be singled out for a bit of praise is Peter Jackson. I’m not one for ever finding positives to say about Jacko, but he did pluck Sam from obscurity and label him a ‘real find’ in 2009. It was him that gave Sam his debut against Darlington in the JPT Trophy just hours before he was sacked. If we’d persisted with Jacko, would Sam have been discarded? I doubt it very much, Peter Jackson loved his younger players and to his credit he involved them more in the first team than any other manager I’ve seen at the Bank. He is another manager I don’t have a lot of time for, but when he was dismissed we were only just outside the play-offs, the sort of position that might have seen Clucas given more game time. When Chris Sutton came in we were ensconced in a relegation battle that we didn’t escape from over an 18-month period, and no young player would ever come out of that with much credit.
We should just be happy that Sam once passed through, and happy that a son of the city has gone on to make his fortune in the top-flight. He’s a generous lad too, recently sponsoring Greenbank in some way I believe, never forgetting his roots. Debating whether we should have missed the opportunity or not is ridiculous, in football these things happen and you have to roll with the punches. I wonder if Leyton Orient fans felt the same way about Gary Taylor-Fletcher, a player they discarded whom we took and benefitted from? Or even Gillingham who released a young lad called Sean Raggett after he’d served his time there?