MAGIC MO-MENT FOR THE TIGERS!
TWO of the Championship’s big guns collided at the KC Stadium – and it was league leaders Hull City still standing at the finish.
Steve Bruce’s Tigers roared to a 3-0 victory against Middlesbrough with goals from Mohamed Diame, Sam Clucas and Tom Huddlestone.
Hull lead the way on goal difference from Brighton, who beat MK Dons 2-1, while Burnley are third after a 0-0 draw at Wolves. Boro lie fourth, while Derby are fifth after their derby defeat at Nottingham Forest on Friday night.
Birmingham lie sixth after a 5-2 romp at Fulham, which is expected to bring the curtain down on Kit Symons’ reign as Whites boss.
In the FA Cup, Bury thrashed 2013 winners Wigan 4-0, while Leyton Orient (6-1 v Staines) and Colchester United (6-2 v Wealdstone) enjoyed thumping victories.
IF SAM Clucas earns promotion with Hull City this season it will cap an incredible rise through English football.
The story of Jamie Vardy, from Stockbridge Park Steels to a Premier League star, is undoubtedly fascinating. But the England striker’s trajectory could be equalled should Steve Bruce’s £1.3m summer signing continue his almost-weekly improvement.
Just six years ago he was lacing up his boots for tiny Nettleham, who play in the Lincolnshire Senior League.
Left winger Clucas, 25, told The FLP:“The last few years I have gone up a level every season – I’ve gone from the Conference to League Two, League Two to League One and in the summer from League One to the Championship – I reckon it’s written in the stars that it could be the Premier League next season!
“I think playing in the Lincolnshire League as a teenager gave me a grounding. If you get life put on a plate for you early on, you’re getting big money and nice things, then you take your foot off the gas and think you’ve made it.
“I had to drive to games and training and you wouldn’t even ask about expenses – it cost me a bit in the end! But that’s a part of my journey, I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of that.”
His career was kick-started by Glenn Hoddle, who days before his 20th birthday watched him trial for his academy.The England legend saw something in him among 2,000 others. He took him to Spain where he played for Jerez Industrial.
A year later, he got his chance in the English pro game. But it wasn’t exactly the start of the big climb. Signing for Hereford United, the club were crumbling. They were relegated out of the League and Clucas was the fall guy, hounded on social media.
“I got messages on twitter from some Hereford fans saying I was the worst player to ever play for that club and that I should quit – 18 months later I won their player of the year and they’re asking me not to leave! Football changes really quickly,” he said.
“Hereford really helped me. Mansfield were also fantastic when I got the move and Chesterfield really helped set me on my way. I’m grateful to everyone.
“But the Glenn Hoddle academy was always the big one. I had to move away to Spain and I would be away from my family for a long, long time. But all I wanted to do was be a footballer.
“If that didn’t work out it was time to try something else. I got lucky. Out of 2,000 trialists he picked me and 20 others to take to Spain. It was a life-changing moment.”
Now it’s onwards and upwards with Hull.
“I actually feel like I have been here for years, not months. I went to see Hull in the 2014 FA Cup final against Arsenal. I was invited after winning the Player of the Round from my time at Mansfield. I got the VIP treatment, it was an amazing day,” he added.
“I remember thinking to myself ‘I would love to be playing for one of those teams out there’ and a year later the call came!”
TAKE THE ACCLAIM: Hull City’s Mohamed Diame celebrates the opening goal with Harry Maguire – match report, see pages 10-11
HAPPY DAYS: Sam Clucas celebrates scoring Hull’s second goal in the 2-0 midweek win against Brentford that put them top and, inset, playing for Hereford