HE IS just two caps away from his international career being adorned with a silver lining, but Charlie Adam admits his status as a Scotland player is clouded by unfulfilment.
It’s fair to say the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign which will come to a close on Tuesday night at Hampden is one which Adam will be especially relieved to see consigned to the history books.
Since making his only Group A starting appearance so far in the opening fixture at home to Serbia in September last year, the Stoke City midfielder has been reduced to the role of bit-part player. That hasn’t stopped him having a significant impact on the abortive campaign, albeit one he would rather have avoided.
It is now exactly a year to the day since Adam was singled out for criticism by then Scotland manager Craig Levein for his part in the 2-1 defeat by Wales in Cardiff which effectively ended all hopes of making it to Brazil next summer and also paved the way for Levein’s dismissal a few weeks later.
Adam’s failure to pick up the run of Gareth Bale before the Welsh superstar slammed home the late winning goal led Levein to accuse him of the kind of mistake “an under-11 player” wouldn’t make. In reflective mood at Scotland’s Renfrewshire base as they prepare for the visit of Croatia on Tuesday night, Adam accepts he was a fair target for Levein’s frustration.
“Listen, you take the criticism on the chin,” he said. “It was understandable and it’s the way it goes. I’d probably say I’ve not played to my potential for my country as much as I should have on a consistent basis.
“I had a lot of respect for Craig Levein, I thought he was a good manager. When you get criticism from him, you take it. That’s part and parcel of being a manager. It would have been easier for him not to say anything.
“I hear players from some countries tell me they go away with the national teams and the manager doesn’t say anything to them. They just turn up, play and then go home. I’d prefer the manager to say what he feels. If he feels he has to say something to shake you up a bit, that’s fine. I understand that. It’s the same at club level. You respect the manager. If he’s not happy with something, I expect him to say something. If a manager doesn’t feel you are contributing to his team, then he wants to say something and you take it. It’s up to you to deal with it.
“The manager said things at the time, that’s up to him and I respected that. I took on board what he said and hopefully I can take it into my Scotland career under the new manager.
“You learn from criticism. The manager wants the best out of the players he has available. If he doesn’t think you are playing to your abilities, he is going to tell you. You’ve got to learn from that. There are no players in the world who haven’t had any criticism from their manager.
“There is always someone out there wanting to have a go, but the manager is the most important person in the group. If he says something he is not happy with, you have to respect that.”
It is over six years since Adam made his Scotland debut. He has amassed 23 caps since then, closing in on that silver medal awarded to those who reach the 25 landmark, while his club career has included moves for in excess of £10 million in transfer fees while serving Rangers, Blackpool, Liverpool and now Stoke.
Adam is now looking for stability with both club and country. He has been a regular at Stoke this season under new manager Mark Hughes, but faces a battle to achieve the same status with Scotland under Gordon Strachan. He has not started an international match since Strachan’s first game in charge, the friendly win over Estonia at Pittodrie in February.
With Charlie Mulgrew having performed impressively in the left-sided holding midfield role for Scotland against Belgium and Macedonia last month, Adam knows he may have to be patient.
“With Scotland, it’s been a bit up and down for me,” he added. “I’ve not played in the last couple of games through injury, suspension and other things. It’s nice to get back involved and I’m ready for Tuesday night. If you have not been in the team and the lads have been doing well, it’s difficult to get back in the team. I understand that. You hope your performances at club level will get you back in the team. If they don’t, then you just have to work as hard as you can to get into the team the next time.
“Charlie Mulgrew and Scott Brown are good players and they have done well in there when they’ve had the jersey. Shaun Maloney has played in the wide position and he has also done well. When other players are playing well, there’s nothing much you can do really. You’ve just got to sit and wait.
“If I don’t play on Tuesday night, I’ll be back for the next squad. The manager picks the team. The team got a great result in Macedonia and whatever the manager decides, we will respect it. The lads who played last month have got the jerseys at the moment and it’s up to me to try to get back in.
“I always hope I could influence the team in different ways. If chosen, I’d look to do that. If not, I just have to bide my time and hope for another opportunity. I hope it can be a fresh start for me with Scotland, that I can get a number of games and kick on now. It was disappointing to miss the last couple and not be part of it. But the lads did well and that’s the important thing.
“To be just two caps away from 25 is fantastic for me. But I’m not there yet. If it does come, great. When you start out, you hope you will be lucky enough to get one or two caps for your country. I’ve been fortunate to have a fair number so far.
“I hope a corner has been turned for Scotland. Results will show that. We seem as if we are playing the right way and have brought some good players into the squad. We’ve also had a lot of good players missing over the period – Darren and Steven Fletcher, for example, have both missed a few games.
“So it’s a good thing we have been winning games when those type of players are missing. When they come back, we will hopefully be an even better squad. The next campaign will be the biggest one for this group of players. We have been together for a couple of years, so hopefully we can take it into the next campaign, give it a right good go and try to qualify. I think it will probably be our best chance.
“We are more mature now as a squad and the younger lads have been around for a number of games. There is important experience in the squad. We never started this campaign great, so if we could finish it well it would be nice. We also play the USA next month and if we can get a couple of good wins in the friendlies before the Euros start, then we will take that confidence into the campaign.
“The expectations and pressure are there for us at home, with however many thousand Scotland fans cheering us on. But we have played better away from home than at home recently. If we can turn that around on Tuesday night and get a win, it will stand us in good stead.
“It’s disappointing not to qualify from any campaign. If you finish third in the group or bottom of the group, you are disappointed because it has been unsuccessful. You are only happy if you qualify, so for the last number of years it has been a disappointment. It’s up to us now to change that. The players are the only ones who can do that.”