Sam Clucas and Jordan Hugill both came from Hoddle’s academy and now play for Rotherham together.


To receive a congratulatory message from Glenn Hoddle, one must put in effort. Sam Clucas had to wait five years and Jordan Hugill waited seven after their Premier League debut with West Ham to receive one.

In 2010, the players were brought together at Hoddle’s academy in Andalucía, far from Hull and east London. Among them were Clucas and Hugill, both part of a group of 20 players who were not wanted by professional clubs. They were coached by former England manager, Glenn Hoddle, along with a talented staff that included John Gorman, Dave Beasant, and Graham Rix. The goal was to develop the young players and eventually sell them to support the academy. However, after three years, the academy was shut down. Now, Clucas and Hugill find themselves reunited at Rotherham in the Championship league after various moves in their careers.

Clucas began his early career at Leicester, but was eventually let go. He briefly played for Lincoln before facing a similar outcome. This led him to consider becoming a physical education instructor. Hugill also spent several years trying out for teams without luck. By the summer of 2010, both players found themselves in a similar unfortunate situation. However, they were given a chance to join Hoddle’s team.

Hugill saw this as a great opportunity, while Clucas saw it as his final chance. According to Clucas, everyone had their own reasons for being there, but they all shared the same goal. The players were at varying levels; some lacked the technical skills to play professionally, others were not physically tall enough, some were skilled but lacked the right attitude, and some struggled with the mental demands of football and were using the experience to better themselves.

Their paths to the New York Stadium have been strikingly alike. After the academy disbanded in 2011, Clucas and Hugill both came back to England and began playing for non-league teams Hereford and Whitby Town respectively, gradually climbing the ranks. Clucas also spent time at Mansfield and Chesterfield before eventually reaching the Premier League with Hull and Swansea, while Hugill had stints at Port Vale and Preston, as well as loan spells, before being signed by West Ham in January 2018.

Clucas describes Hugill as being average in terms of technical ability, but not terrible. When Clucas initially observed Hugill in a game, he saw potential for improvement in his technique in order to pursue a career in football. Although Hugill had the physical attributes and agility, he lacked the necessary technical skills to excel. Clucas is aware of the immense effort Hugill has put into developing his game outside of his home environment, while also managing personal challenges. He acknowledges the dedication and sacrifices that are required in their profession, which can only be understood by those who have experienced it firsthand.

Sam Clucas celebrates scoring Hull City’s first goal in the Premier League match against Leicester in 2017.

Leicester let go of Clucas when he was 16 due to his small stature, but he later experienced a growth spurt. This highlights the unpredictable nature of academies, although they have become more advanced in assessing size and other physical attributes in the 17 years since. Clucas worked at a Debenhams cafe and Hugill received unemployment benefits before finding work as a bartender for a few years.

Hugill reflects on the academy, stating that it was ahead of its time. He notes that many similar concepts now exist, providing last chances for released players. However, this was not the case 15 years ago. It is unfortunate that the academy is no longer operational, as it was a valuable option for players. Hugill acknowledges that without it, he is unsure of where he would be today.

Other players, such as Ikechi Anya who played for Watford in the Premier League, and Alex Fisher, Mickey Demetriou, and James Dayton, experienced success as well. These players had long professional careers. A crucial factor in their growth was the chance to compete for Jerez Industrial in the fourth division of Spanish soccer, which was made possible through an agreement with the financially struggling club by Hoddle.

According to Clucas, the business model was flawed. The company was funding 20 players to live in Spain and promoting them. However, it was unlikely for a player from the Glenn Hoddle Academy to get signed by Manchester United for £50 million, making it difficult to sustain the business. Players were joining teams without pay, with the expectation of gaining profits in the future by signing away their image rights. Many players, including Clucas and Jord, missed out on potential opportunities as the company had already collapsed by the time they received offers.

Throughout his professional career, Clucas has been transferred for a total of over £20 million, while Hugill’s move to West Ham cost the team approximately £10 million. This demonstrates that Hoddle’s strategy was sound.

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Hoddle regularly participated in daily training sessions and occasionally the inexperience of his younger players would lead them to try and outdo him in passing drills by shooting the ball at him. However, Hoddle’s skillful control, even at his age of 50+, would often leave them embarrassed.

Southampton’s Mario Lemina vies with West Ham’s Jordan Hugill (right) during a Premier League in 2018.

Clucas shares that his time playing professional football has restored his confidence. After being released following just one game at Lincoln, he had doubts about his abilities and chances of success. Making it to the Premier League with his teammate Jord is not only a personal achievement, but also a victory for the academy.

After coming together at Rotherham, who will face Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday, there has been a lot of reflecting on their time at the academy. Several individuals who were involved still keep in contact and have discussed planning a golf trip, but other commitments such as work and family have hindered this.

Could Hugill have achieved his current success without the academy? “Absolutely not,” he asserts. “It gave me the opportunity to receive a football education, as my previous experience was limited to playing non-league matches and getting rejected from clubs during trials. I never imagined I would make it to the Premier League and Championship. The academy provided me with the necessary skills to become the best player I could be.”


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