‘One of my biggest regrets’ – 30-y/o Championship star talks Lincoln City

When your career has seen you win Man of the Match at Old Trafford, command transfer fees such as £16m and spend two seasons as a Premier League regular, you would imagine regrets are hard to come by.

On Match Day Live this week, arguably the best show we’ve done so far, former Imps midfielder Sam Clucas admitted that his big regret is not playing more games for his hometown club.

I recall Sam signing for the Imps, the story of the local boy from college coming out of a part-time job at Debenhams cafe to grab a one-year deal. Few could have predicted what was to follow, especially manager Chris Sutton, who let the youngster leave. Since then, Clucas has fought his way up the divisions, with Hereford, Mansfield, Chesterfield and then Hull City, who handed him his Premier League chance. He’s spent time with Swansea too and is now a regular for Stoke City in the Championship.

Despite that fine career, the likeable 30-year-old admitted the one regret he has is not playing more for the Imps.

“Since leaving Lincoln, it was one of my biggest regrets, not getting a real opportunity at my home town club,” he told Sam Ashoo and I this week. “To this day, I remember when Peter Jackson pulled me in and offered the one-year deal. I remember walking home and ringing my parents and telling them how happy I was that I’d got a chance to play there.

“I never expected to break into the first team straight away with no experience behind me. I got the one game in the cup away at Darlington, the manager got sacked and with that comes a new manager, new ideas and sometimes you don’t always fit into the plans.

“That’s always one I’ve looked back at, I’d have loved to have played more games, played at Sincil Bank in front of my friends and family. Played there, but played for an opposition team in Hereford! It’s football, you never know what happens in the future.”

Clucas is now battling for another season in the Premier League

Sam, whose Stoke side are currently ninth in the table and challenging for a play-off place, admitted he still keeps an eye out for Imps results and watches when he can. Plenty of supporters saw him in a hotel ahead of the 2018 EFL Trophy Final and he admitted to keeping an eye out for his hometown club whenever the chance arises.

“I was there watching (at Wembley), I’m still a Lincoln boy, all my family and friends live in Lincoln and I get back whenever I can. I always look out for results and I always watch on telly. I watched the Gillingham the other night and it is brilliant to see how far they’ve come and how well they’re doing this season. I’m like most Lincoln fans, I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that they can get over the line and get the club into the Championship.”

After watching the Imps beat Gillingham 3-0, it wasn’t just the win which impressed the former Glenn Hoddle Academy star, but also the style of play.

“Watching that Gillingham game on telly, they’re not only picking results but playing really nice football. That’s great to see and it’s what fans like to see as well. It’s not just long ball, getting results, they’re playing football and it’s great to see. I like the look of the front four, you’ve got Grant who I have played against in the past who is a really good player, Hopper the striker and the two lads that have come in on loan who play on the wings.

“It’s a really exciting squad, and you mix in the youth and energy with the experience in players like Bridcutt. It’s a really exciting time for Lincoln, all they need to do is keep concentrating on the games coming up and hopefully get over the line into the Championship. it’s just a shame fans might not get into the stadium to see it.”

Peter Jackson handed Sam his first professional deal – (courtesy Graham Burrell)

It is indeed a shame, but it is also nice to hear from a local boy made good, a player who purveys the same style of football as the club he once longed to play for now does in the third-tier. Remember, this isn’t just a Lincoln lad who has had a half-decent career talking. This is a former Premier League footballer, a player whose last transfer fee was £6m, who has seen the game right at the top level. For him to recognise how we’re doing and be so enthusiastic was exciting and refreshing to hear.

Will we ever see Sam Clucas at Sincil Bank again? His current contract with Stoke City runs out at the end of next season, but even by then he will still be capable of commanding good wages as a 31-year-old, and might just be beyond the reach of the Imps. Still, with his enthusiasm, his matching style of play and of course, that affinity for the Imps, we might yet get to enjoy the talents of arguably the best son of Lincoln ever to wear an Imps shirt, but never to appear at Sincil Bank.

What a treat that would be.