The almost comic irony did not make it any easier to digest. Charlie Adam has long fought the perception he has weight issues yet felt like he had become the invisible man during Gordon Strachan’s reign as Scotland manager.
He now feels he has better hopes of rekindling his international career under Alex McLeish, whose qualities remind him of his much-missed father.
This Christmas was the seventh without Charlie Senior, who died in December 2012 at the age of just 50. A footballer himself, one numbering Dundee United among his clubs as well as Partick Thistle and Forfar Athletic, he had a huge influence on his son’s career despite never quite scaling the same heights.
Certainly there was no one prouder when Charlie junior made his Scotland debut under McLeish in a 1-0 friendly win over Austria in 2007. Adam made a further 25 appearances over eight years, the last of which was in a friendly victory over Qatar three-and-a-half years ago when he came on as a substitute for Shaun Maloney. Even then it was his first involvement for over a year.
And since then? Despite playing regularly in the English top flight for Stoke City at the time, Adam’s Scotland call-ups suddenly ceased again. There was no contact from Strachan, who played him only six times in total, no phone call to reassure him he was still in the manager’s plans. Only radio silence. “It was like someone just made me disappear really,” said Adam. “I just drifted out. I got my 26th cap at Easter Road against Qatar and then was never seen again.
“The manager obviously never fancied me and that’s fine. It was hard to take. But when the manager has a squad to pick, then he’s got to pick the players he feels are playing well.
“The Celtic lads were flying at the time and he felt he would go with that. That’s the way it goes, that’s football. I was disappointed with that. I said that [at the time] in the papers. It is what it is. If it ends tomorrow and Charlie Adam never plays for Scotland again, which I hope is not the case, I’ve enjoyed my time.”
Adam would prefer to describe his Scotland career as in abeyance rather than having been terminated for good. Having only recently turned 33, he still has time on his side. He is heartened by Steven Fletcher’s recent return to the fray after more than a year on the international sidelines. “Fair play to him,” said Adam. “It shows there is light for everybody. You’ve got to play regular for your club, you’ve got to play well, and hopefully the opportunities will come.”
Adam is currently negotiating his release from Stoke City, where he has been told he is surplus to requirements after over six years at the club. He has been linked with Hearts, Rangers and Dundee, the club he supported as a boy. Currently looking as trim as he’s ever done, he’s desperate to get back playing regularly so he can force the issue of a Scotland re-call.
Another reason for believing there is still hope is the appointment of McLeish. “We’ve moved on as a country now,” he said, with reference to the current set-up. “We’re trying to be the best we can now.”
McLeish is clearly willing to turn to anyone he thinks can play a part. His return to the manager’s post was particularly good news for Adam following the unsatisfying way his international career seemed to grind to a halt under Strachan. “I wished Alex all the best when he got the job, and I have done before every game that he’s managed, because I like him as a person first and foremost,” said Adam.
McLeish not only got Adam’s Scotland career up and running, he also handed him a debut for Rangers. More than this, he occupied a position of mentor in Adam’s life, and indeed still does. This is a poignant revelation from Adam, who endured one of the cruellest heartaches of all when learning his father had taken his own life.
McLeish fulfilled a paternal role to Adam as the youngster made his way through the ranks at Ibrox, handing him his senior debut v Livingston in April 2004. Adam replaced Ronald de Boer in the second half of a 1-1 draw in West Lothian. McLeish left Ibrox two years later but he and Adam kept in touch. They were almost reunited at Aston Villa, but Liverpool won the race to sign the player from Blackpool. McLeish had already handed Adam his first two Scotland caps.
“He’s somebody who I could relate to and someone I look up to as a father, because I was young and I see a lot of my dad in how he is as a person,” explained Adam. “So, I always look up to him and I always want the best for him. He’s had a sticky time because of the results, but he’s big enough and brave enough to take it on the chin. He’s an honest guy, he will speak the truth and tell people how it is. I like that about him.
“Giving someone your debut for club and for country means that he trusts you, and he’s always somebody that I know if I was to pick up the phone in any part of my playing career, he would always answer and I would always be able to speak to him. That’s something I’ve always seen in him.”
There’s clearly an onus on Adam to get back playing again before he can have any realistic thoughts about adding to his Scotland caps. He can’t understand those willing to place their international careers in jeopardy by dropping out of contention, as happened in several instances late last year before the double header with Albania and Israel. He excuses the troubled Leigh Griffiths from criticism having himself taken the brave step of speaking out about mental health issues following his father’s death.
“People are understanding now that footballers are human beings,” he said. “Yes, we have a good life and we understand that we earn a lot of money, but we are human beings at the end of the day. People who suffer, the biggest thing is to be able to come out and talk. For him to do that, he should be really proud of himself and his family.”