Sam Clucas had been getting used to being told he was not good enough, or not wanted.
Like the time at Leicester City’s academy when he was told he would be too small to make a career in the game. Or when at Lincoln City, his boyhood club, then manager Chris Sutton ignored him to the extent he played just one game in a year. He also scored a hat-trick in a trial game at MK Dons – but didn’t get a permanent deal.
Most people would probably have given up, but not Clucas.
After catching the eye for Hull City as they were relegated, Swansea City decided to spend big on the player which caused a few eyebrows to be raised. The Swans parted with £15million to secure his signature and it appeared as though the price tag was weighing heavy. The 27-year-old didn’t have the best of starts to life with Paul Clement – but then few did.
Initially, things didn’t work out well and Clucas has admitted as much, labelling himself a slow starter when it comes to new clubs. It didn’t help that Clement played him outside of his natural midfield role, instead opting to play his new signing at left-back.
While the former Mansfield Town man is a versatile presence, having to fill in as a full-back, because of injuries to others, didn't help his adaptation period.
Even at Hull he was quite effective in a central midfield role, playing as the deepest lying player who broke up attacks and initiated moves with simple, short passing.
Last season he was making on average 2.51 tackles per 90 minutes, whereas now, with the Welsh outfit, it’s just 1.83. The same goes for his interceptions which have gone down slightly from 1.52 per game to 1.45.
His best performances for the Swans have come from the left side of midfield. It allows him the opportunity to support his defence, but also roam forward into attack and offer an extra presence. This was particularly evident against Arsenal, with Clucas allowed to gallop on and attack spaces left by the Gunners.
He did so effortlessly and the Swans ended up coming away with a huge three points.
In the move for Swansea's opening goal, Clucas drifted in from a wide area and darted in between the player filling in at full-back and centre-back (as seen below), before receiving a pass from Alfie Mawson and finishing adeptly.
Swansea’s renaissance under Carlos Carvahal has been well reported and one of the key features has been maintaining a strong, consistent core in the team. Clucas has been a key part of that and has undoubtedly been superior with the Portuguese, becoming a key, integral member of the team.
Carvahal has often looked to to play the Swansea No.17 on the left side of a midfield four. There, as Clucas has explained himself, there is a license to link with team-mates in the opposition's half and provide more of a goal threat. Things were more about shape and structure with Clement, whereas the new Swansea manager preaches a more vibrant, free version of the game.
“The new manager (Carvahal) has come in and just concentrated on playing through the lines and playing with freedom. You’re not stuck in your positions, you’re free to come in and link up. I think that has given the boys a lot of confidence. It has certainly helped me, “ said Clucas in an interesting interview with the Guardian recently.
Swansea are one of the teams near the bottom of the table in the best condition for a strong run to end the season.
In Carvahal, they have one of the most positive, enterprising managers in the league while in the squad they have a group of players more than capable of finishing well above the relegation zone. Clucas, for all the criticism he's faced, is most certainly one of them. In fact, if the club are to build and progress, Clucas should be one of those helping lay the foundations.