Tom English: Craig Levein is full of praise for Adam so why has the Scotland coach not used him more?
All credit to St Paul and his Damascene moment: his vision of the resurrected Christ on a road in Syria set the bar high in terms of life-changing conversion.
In fairness to Craig Levein, he has his own variation on the theme. He experienced his Pauline revelation on the evening of 12 October, 2010 when Lee McCulloch told him his groin was knackered and that he'd better get Charlie Adam warmed up. Adam – so beloved by Levein that you'd think he's played every minute of every game under the Scotland manager – hadn't actually appeared in the European championship qualifiers until then.
The draw in Lithuania came and went without him, the coronary-inducing night against Liechtenstein happened without a minute's input from the Blackpool player, Levein picked six midfielders for the infamous night in Prague and Adam wasn't one of the six. But, after 45 minutes of competitive football against Spain and with the game against Brazil just a week away he is, in Levein's eyes, good enough, all of a sudden, to mix it with the Samba Boys and classy enough to out-pass any one of them.
"He played against Spain back in October and, since then, he's gone through a transfer window where he's had three top clubs trying to buy him," said Levein. "So he's in a better place now confidence-wise.
Charlie won't be fazed by this game against Brazil in any way, shape or form. It's nothing for him. He's playing against some of these guys in the Premiership so this won't be a worry for him."
Adam is having a remarkable time of it, coveted by Liverpool and Spurs and Manchester United, it seems. His big move in the January transfer window fell through but his response to the disappointment has been a tribute to the man in that he has scored three goals in his four games since the window shut. Charlie Adam? With Brazil in mind maybe we should rename him. Adaminho, anybody? How about Roberto Charlie?
"For me, he's the best passer of a ball in the English Premiership," said the Scotland manager, who has now settled on a 4-1-4-1 formation with Adam behind the midfield, spraying his passes and calling the shots. "The stats back that up about his passing. Long-distance passing in particular. His long-distance passing is more accurate than any other player. He's a vital cog in our wheel. It's not just his passing, it's his willingness to buy into the team that turns me on to him, almost more than his ability. He's a real asset on and off the pitch."
Levein says Adam has the elegance of a Glenn Hoddle in his prime and the goal threat of a young Paul Scholes. He admires him for the way he's had to work for what he's now got, the way he has had to deal with the disappointment of being an unloved (by the fans) bit-part player at Ibrox before becoming the most sought-after midfield player in England.
It all begs the question why, with all of this in his locker, has Adam only played 45 minutes out of a total of 360 in the qualifying campaign. Levein's point is this, and it doesn't only refer to Adam either, he says. When the four matches, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic and Spain, were played back in September and October, his go-to men of today hadn't yet hit their best form. Hence, the lesser-spotted Adam, the near train wreck that was Liechtenstein and the formation in Prague that was all about containment and nothing else.
"The progression of the players dictates where I am with my thinking. If you look through the team, compared to the start of the season, they're in a far better place. They're displaying, week-in, week-out, that they're capable of playing at the top level, which a year ago they weren't."
The great debating point about Adam, of course, is why didn't he excel in the SPL. "Maybe he was never confident enough. Anybody who has an asset like he has, you still have to be in the right place in your mind for the best of your ability to come out. I don't think he was ever in that place at Ibrox."
Levein talks as much about work ethic as he does about ability. If he has plaudits for Adam then his praise for Darren Fletcher – unavailable against Brazil – is even loftier. Fletcher embodies everything he is looking for, he says. "Not just for his ability, not just for what he does to the opposition when they see him. It's his influence and his attitude in the training camp and in games, he's the shining beacon for me for what teamwork and being unselfish and working your absolute bollocks off for your country is all about. He's the epitome of that and he's the benchmark for what I'm looking for. The fortunate thing is that we've got that in him plus a bit of ability.
"As a person, he's a diamond. He epitomises all the values I'd love every player in our squad to have. Respectful, courteous, he's a kind person, but he's a winner."
In the brave new world of 4-1-4-1, Levein has Adam or Graham Dorrans or, if he wishes, Barry Bannan, as the one behind the midfield and the four ahead of him can be permed from a growing list – Kris Commons, Scott Brown, Fletcher, Steven Naismith, James Morrison, James McArthur.
He hasn't given up on James McCarthy either. Even without Fletcher, it's a squad that should be good enough to give Brazil a game. Whether they're capable of undoing the needless damage that's already been done to their European qualifying campaign is another matter.
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