SEEDORF. Djorkaeff. Fjortoft. Stubbs.
It sounds like the beginning of a ’90s football dream team. In fact, these are just a few of the players to have moved to the Scottish top flight this summer. Each have famous relatives who played at a high level in years gone by, but none can be said to be acclimatising to Scottish football as well as Sam Stubbs.
His dad, Alan, is perhaps best remembered in this part of the world from his five-year stint at Celtic but now Sam is well and truly stepping out of his father’s shadow and forging his own career. And since he joined Hamilton this summer, the centre-back has been nothing short of superb for his new side.
The 20-year-old is on loan at Accies until the end of the season from Middlesbrough and as Brian Rice’s side battle to avoid relegation against the odds once again, it looks as though Stubbs may well prove to be the difference between survival and going down. We may only be eight games into the Premiership season but Stubbs is already one of the top-performing defenders in the Scottish top flight.
At this early stage of the campaign, Stubbs is comfortably the best natural defender at Hamilton. No other player comes close to matching his defensive duel success rate of 72%; in fact, this is one of the top rates in the entire division, placing Stubbs inside the top 15 players in the Premiership in this metric.
This is impressive in and of itself from a new arrival to the league, especially for one so young. But when we dig a little deeper, we can see that not only is Stubbs Accies’ best-performing defender so far this season: he’s been one of the best in the entire league.
No top-flight player manages as many interceptions than Stubbs does during a typical match and the centre-back has proven to be highly adept at snuffing out opposition attacks in this way. To be fair, you would expect someone playing for one of the lower-ranked sides in the league to be occupying top spot in this metric. After all, Hamilton spend far less time than the likes of Celtic or Rangers on the ball and as a result, there are more opportunities for interceptions to be made. But there are other areas where once again, Stubbs is one of the best-performing defenders in the Premiership.
Winning headers and aerial challenges is a fundamental aspect of a central defender’s role and, as it stands, only Celtic’s Norwegian centre-half Kristoffer Ajer wins more of his aerial duels than Stubbs. For a newcomer to the league, and one that isn’t especially tall for a centre-back – Stubbs measures in at an even six feet tall – this is truly remarkable.
On top of all this, no player has blocked as many shots as Stubbs (14) has this season and the defender has only committed four fouls in the Premiership so far. No matter what way you look at it, Stubbs is either matching – or out-performing – the Premiership’s best defenders across a variety of defensive stats.
All of this points to a player who is composed in the tackle, quick to deny his opponents opportunities (either through blocking their efforts at goal or simply intercepting the ball before the chance arises) and dominant in the air. Not bad at all for a defender whose only previous experience of playing regularly came during a six-month loan spell at Notts County last year.
It’s still early days, of course, and a lot can change as the season progresses. But Stubbs’ achievements for Hamilton so far deserve a vast amount of credit and the centre-back is undoubtedly one of the players to watch as the campaign unfolds. If he can maintain his brilliant start, then he will surely be a key player as Accies look to stave off relegation once again. For now he’s known as Alan’s son but come the end of the season, it could well be his father that’s known as Sam’s dad.