WHEN Charlie Adam stamped on Richie Wellens and became the first Blackpool player sent off on debut since the 1970s, maybe we should have guessed he’d one day write himself into Seasiders folklore.
Because Adam chose former Pool man Wellens as his victim, he was toasted by the fans, not criticised.
That game against Doncaster Rovers, on February 7, 2009, was Adam’s first taste of life on the Fylde.
He had signed on loan from Rangers. Tony Parkes was manager. Blackpool were fighting to stay in the Championship.
Adam helped them do it, scoring two goals in his 13 appearances – including a peach of a strike to help Pool win 1-0 at Deepdale. The lad picks his moments.
Parkes went in the summer, Ian Holloway arrived – and did the best piece of business he’ll ever do by signing Adam from Rangers on a permanent deal. The Scot was outstanding as the Seasiders won an astonishing promotion to the Premier League.
And this year? Well, it’s got even better.
Those who doubted whether Adam would have the stamina and skill to thrive against the world’s best players have got their answer: of course he has.
The 25-year-old has matured as a player and shone in almost every game, hence his deserved inclusion on the shortlist for the PFA player of the year.
It is a coveted prize, just about the biggest honour an individual can receive in British football.
Even if Adam doesn’t win when the result is announced a week on Sunday, the very fact he has been nominated speaks volumes about the impression he has made on his peers.
There is no better feeling than getting the nod of approval from your fellow pros.
Adam is delighted about being nominated, and the good news for Pool is that it will further boost his confidence.
With seven huge games of the season remaining, and with Adam absolutely key to the Seasiders chances of staying up, that is a bonus.
He is already approaching legend status at Bloomfield Road; helping Pool survive will cement his reputation forever.
Here, Gazette footballer writer STEVE CANAVAN selects his favourite Adam moments of the season.
Asked what his own highlight was, Adam said: “I’ve just enjoyed my time playing here and I’ve enjoyed every victory.
“The important thing for me is that we’ve never looked out of place and that has been the highlight.
“It doesn’t matter who we have played, the team has performed well for long stages of the season.
“It has been difficult because there are some established teams in this league with world class players.
“There are real top teams in this division, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham – the list goes on. But we’ve held our own.
“We’ll see where we are on the last day in May and if we are above three other teams, we will still be in this league and then it will be party time.”
If Adam wins the PFA award as well, that will be one hell of a party.
1. That free-kick against Blackburn (March 19): Adam had missed the previous two games through suspension but came back into the starting line-up at Ewood Park and proved just how invaluable he is. Four minutes after opening the scoring from the penalty spot, Adam scored one of the free-kicks of the season when he whipped the ball left-footed over the Rovers wall and into the top corner. Paul Robinson in the Blackburn goal didn’t move. Voting for the PFA award had finished by this point. If it hadn’t, Adam would no doubt have earned a few more votes from his fellow professionals – particularly those in the Rovers team.
2. Penalty at Liverpool (October 3): Adam was clearly more fired up than usual for this encounter, determined to show he could deliver against one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs. Boy did he succeed. Adam bossed the midfield area, leaving England’s Steven Gerrard in the shade. He completed a magnificent personal performance by converting a spot-kick in the first half. It helped the Seasiders record a famous 2-1 victory.
3. Pass at West Brom (January 15): What’s that? Why include a pass from a game which Pool lost? Those there will know why. Receiving the ball near the halfway line, Adam didn’t appear to even look up before delivering a sensational 60-yard curling pass inside the West Brom centre-half and left-back, putting DJ Campbell through on goal. Match of the Day’s Alan Hansen described it as pass of the decade. He isn’t wrong. Incredible.
4. First half against United (January 25): He may have run out of steam a little towards the end, but for 45 minutes Adam was sensational. Overshadowed top-quality players like Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney, and just for good measure made Scotland team-mate Darren Fletcher look daft with a couple of cheeky nutmegs. “His corners alone are worth £10m”, commented an impressed Sir Alex Ferguson.
5 Tribute to Parky (September 11): Adam scored a penalty on the stroke of half time to put the Seasiders 1-0 ahead at Newcastle. He ran straight to the Blackpool dugout on the halfway line, grabbed a T-shirt emblazoned with “4 Parky”, and held it aloft. It was a touching tribute to youth team coach Gary Parkinson, who had suffered a massive stroke earlier in the week.
6. January stampede: Liverpool, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Birmingham all tried to sign the Scot during a hectic transfer window. The fees being mentioned (£4 to 6m would have smashed the Seasiders transfer record and seen the club make a massive profit on the £500,000 they paid to sign Adam two years ago from Rangers. But they held firm – a wise move as Adam, with his PFA nomination, is now worth a whole lot more.
7. Nailed down his place in the Scotland side: Adam was a bit-part player in the national team when the campaign began. Now Craig Levein is building the team around him, describing Adam as his “quarterback”. Had the honour of facing Brazil in his last match for Scotland. Might not have had his best game, but there is little doubt Adam will become the linchpin of the side over the next few years.
8. Nominated by the Sun for BBC Sports Personality of the Year (December): The BBC canvassed national newspaper sports editors and The Sun’s shortlist included Adam. Quite an honour.
9. Famous win (February 23): When Pool beat Tottenham at Bloomfield Road, Adam was the catalyst. He converted the penalty which put the Seasiders in front and then ran the show against Harry Redknapp’s men, helping the Tangerines to a 3-1 win. Adam was no doubt extra fired up because of Spurs’ late, futile efforts to sign him on transfer deadline day.
10. Lawro’s a fan (March): In an exclusive interview with the Gazette, top BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson positively drooled about Adam. Described him as one of the best passers in the Premier League and had no doubt he will go on to be a top flight regular for years to come, whether at Blackpool or somewhere else.
CHARLIE Adam has six rivals in the PFA’s prestigious Players’ Player of the Year awards, all hopeful of following in the boots of 2010 winner Wayne Rooney.
Here, are the other contenders for the prize, along with the thoughts of PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor.
GARETH BALE (Tottenham)
“It took Gareth some time after he came to Tottenham from Southampton – in fact he had some adverse publicity - but suddenly he has blossomed.
“He has come through and more than fulfilled everyone’s expectations and I think he looks real value for money at just £5million.
“The impact he has made, the goals he has got, he has been quite outstanding.”
SCOTT PARKER (West Ham)
“You would have to say, without doubt, Scott has been West Ham’s outstanding player and if they stay in the Premier League, you would have to say he would have been very much responsible for that.
“Things looked quite hopeless at times for West Ham but he managed to keep them going.”
CARLOS TEVEZ (Manchester City)
“Carlos made a controversial move from Manchester United to City – in fact, controversy has probably dogged him since he came to the country. He has come through in spite of that.
“He did well for United and now he has moved on and has been a real talisman for City.
“He has maintained that level of consistency and leadership and his workrate is phenomenal for such a good goalscorer.”
RAFAEL VAN DER VAART (Tottenham)
“Another shrewd buy by Harry Redknapp. He has been bedevilled a little bit by injuries but he is top class and some of the quality of his goals have been a real delight to see.
“With some of the prices that are paid, I don’t think Harry will have any regrets with what he paid for him.”
NEMANJA VIDIC (Manchester United)
“He has been a success story. It took him a while to settle in but he is acknowledged as one of the world’s best defenders.
“When they are fit, Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are as good a pair of central defenders as you could expect to come across in the whole world.
“It is not often defenders get so highly rated with regard to our nominations but he deserves to be up there.”
SAMIR NASRI (Arsenal)
“His skills under pressure are quite fantastic. He has done ever so well and will be looking to blossom again.
“He is now one of the top players in an Arsenal team which has been a major contender for honours.”