CHE GOES FROM ZERO TO HERO!
HE’S the 18-year-old who came from nowhere to scare the life out of Spurs and fire Sheffield United to within a whisker of the League Cup final.
Yet just three months ago, Che Adams was turning out for Non-League Ilkeston and being dressed down by their gaffer Kevin Wilson.
It’s been an incredible rise for the former Coventry colt, who stepped off the bench and scored twice in two minutes to wipe out a 2-0 aggregate deficit before Christian Eriksen’s late goal broke Bramall Lane hearts.
Promoted to the Ilkeston first team only in August, the pacy teenage striker swiftly garnered attention and by early October no fewer that 45 Football League clubs had sent scouts to the New Manor Ground.
And despite an impressive tally of nine goals and 11 assists, Wilson warned that Adams was in danger of blowing his chance at a big move.
“I knew I was being watched,” says Adams, who had played only 136 minutes of pro football before facing the Premier League side. “And Kevin did, too.
“He said he thought I was getting distracted and not playing my normal game. And he was right – it was on my mind. If I did something bad, I would think ‘Oh no – was someone important watching, did a scout see that?’
“But I was just trying to get on with it and thankfully it didn’t affect anything because Sheffield United came in.”
The Blades won the tug of war in November, with Adams personally talked into signing by manager Nigel Clough.
“I came up to meet Nigel and he just came over as a really nice, genuine guy,” says Adams, whose childhood idols were Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry.
“He told me he wasn’t afraid to play youngsters and if you look at his teams over the years that’s been obvious. He’s also managed in Non-League for a lot of years so if he sees something in you then it maybe means a bit more.
“At the time, he said I was one for the future so I wouldn’t have expected to be playing against Tottenham two months later.”
So what did Adams think when Clough told him to get stripped and take on the likes of Eriksen and Harry Kane?
“I just thought ‘Go for it’,” laughs Adams, who collected the shirt of ex-Blade Kyle Walker as a souvenir. “We started as underdogs and by the time I came on we were 2-0 down as well. I didn’t have anything to lose.
“I’m not really a nervous person in general. And to be honest, I was just so happy to be on the pitch.
“Obviously the difference between Ilkeston and Sheffield United is massive. When you’re out there, you can’t even hear yourself think, let alone speak.
“But once you start playing, all that kind of fades into the background. You just play like you always have. It’s not like I’m taking someone on and thinking ‘Woah, that’s Kyle Walker’. It’s just another player in another game.
“I was buzzing with the goals, but it was obviously overshadowed when Eriksen scored the winner right at the death. Going out and knowing you’d come so close to reaching the League Cup final was a horrible feeling.”
Now Adams is just hoping for a few more games – and to show Coventry what they missed.
“They told me that they thought I wouldn’t develop,” says Adams, who rekindled his career at Oadby Town before joining Ilkeston’s scholarship scheme.
“I’m not sure exactly which way they meant it – physically or technically – but I don’t understand how they could be so sure at the age of 14! But I’ve worked my way back and hopefully I can prove them wrong.”
WHAT A MOMENT: Defender Jay McEveley rushes in to congratulate Che Adams, second from left, on his second goal against Spurs
OLD AND NEW: Che Adams playing for Ilkeston and scoring his first against Tottenham