CHARLIE Adam will not let his disappointment at failing to become the first Scot in more than 30 years to land the goal of the season award impinge on the realisation of a boyhood dream later this evening.
A concerted campaign by Arsenal fans meant Jack Wilshere’s comparatively ordinary volley against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday was voted into top spot on BBC’s Match of the Day programme at the weekend.
“(Playing for Dundee) is something I always wanted to do… this is my opportunity”Charlie Adam
Anchorman Gary Linker was among those who admitted being surprised by this, while studio guest Alan Shearer said there should only have been one winner – Adam for his 66-yard wonder strike against Chelsea in April. He would have been the first Scottish player to win the award since Graeme Sharp earned the accolade for his memorable volley for Everton against Liverpool in 1984.
But Adam has adopted a phlegmatic approach. He is, he says, preoccupied with thoughts of pulling on a Dundee shirt this evening in Crystal Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni’s testimonial, which he has dreamed about doing since he was a boy.
One of the conditions of being allowed to take part in former Dundee keeper Speroni’s special night is that he does not try to embarrass him with any shots from his own half in the manner which made Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’ face turn red at Stamford Bridge.
Adam knows he will be urged to try his luck by the 1,700 Dundee fans who refused to be put off by the prospect of rail strikes to book their travel to London for a game honouring Speroni, who played for Dundee between 2001 and 2004. Adam is unsurprised by this number. Had had he not been invited to play, he might have been among them.
“Yes, I used to go the games quite a lot,” he said yesterday. “I was a supporter, my family supported Dundee as I was growing up and that is why I am still a supporter now.”
His late father, Charlie senior, played for Dundee United. as well as several other clubs. He was, however, a staunch Dundee supporter, and was rumoured to have a Dundee tattoo while turning out for their rivals. For Charlie junior, who grew up in the city, there was only one choice of club to follow, even if it was Rangers, rather than the Dens Park side, who first saw his potential as a footballer.
But the belated call-up to play for Dundee could not have come at a better time since he is in the form of his life. Since THAT goal against Chelsea, he has struck a further four times in seven games, including providing the fourth goal in Sunday’s remarkable 6-1 demolition of former club Liverpool.
“When I got the offer to play in it, it was something I was always going to look forward to,” he said of tonight’s appearance. Adam fleshed out the details of how the invitation came about.
“We played Crystal Palace and I spoke to Julian afterwards, and I mentioned I was a Dundee supporter,” he explained. “But I never expected to get invited to the game. I got a letter from him asking if I would like to play. And I was delighted to play. Hopefully it is a great turn-out for him because he was a great player for Dundee, and he has done a great job at Crystal Palace, where he has been for over ten years.”
In the age of email, Facebook and Twitter, it is quaint to think Adam received a letter requesting his attendance in south London. This is what used to happen to inform players they were being called up for international squads, something the midfielder is also celebrating having been recalled by Gordon Strachan for next month’s double-header with Qatar and Republic of Ireland.
There were some initial concerns that his international return – Adam has not appeared for Scotland for over a year – would mean he would decide to pull out of his appearance for Dundee, but these were the quashed by the 29 year-old yesterday.
“I am playing 45 minutes,” he said. “I spoke to [Dundee manager] Paul Hartley, and I spoke to the Scotland manager. It’s a testimonial game so there won’t be anything silly. I am going to play 45 minutes and I am looking forward to it.
“It is always something I wanted to do [play for Dundee],” he added. “I am not saying I am going to end my career there or anything, so this is my opportunity to make an appearance for them. There will be a lot of Dundee fans there ready to support Julian which of course is the most important thing.
“It’s a great trip to London for the supporters,” he added. “That’s one reason they are all coming down. But to get this opportunity to go and show Julian respect is a massive incentive, because he did a good job for Dundee. He had some great times there, such as getting to a Scottish Cup final.”
Even though he had already begun life at Ibrox, Adam was at Hampden Park on that occasion in 2003 – supporting Dundee against Rangers. “I was at Rangers but in the Dundee end!” he recalled. “I was there with my Dad and his mates. It was early in my career at Ibrox but I was there supporting Dundee. t was great to be there, even if the result went the wrong way.”
Asked to name his favourite Dundee player, he opts for a perhaps surprising choice of Iain Anderson. Although a talented winger who became the youngest player to score in the Premier Division when he converted a penalty for Dundee versus Hibs in 1994 at the age of 16, Anderson’s progress was hampered by injury.
“I was lucky enough when I was at St Mirren to play with Iain, who was my favourite player growing up,” said Adam. But he is relishing the opportunity to play with those bigger names who joined the club in the early 2000s, along with Speroni, and who have agreed to join Adam on the park for Dundee this evening.
“To be able to see people like [Temuri] Ketsbaia, [Georgi] Nemsadze and Juan Sara, for me it is something I am looking forward to,” said Adam. “It was one of the most successful times the club had. The way they played was incredible. It will be a privilege to share the pitch with them and to play in the same team.
“We have had a lot of heartache, such as two administrations,” he added. “But Dundee are in a good place just now. To get beaten in the derby on the last day of the season was difficult. But it has been a great season considering where they were two years ago.”