Che Adams: My regret on Scotland timing and how I might not be playing at Hampden at all

Che Adams has had his fair share of sliding door moments in an unconventional career path which has taken him from the ninth tier of English football to the brink of playing in the World Cup finals.

Che Adams celebrates after scoring the second goal in Scotland's 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Denmark at Hampden in November. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Che Adams celebrates after scoring the second goal in Scotland's 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Denmark at Hampden in November. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

So it’s little wonder that the likeable 25-year-old is generally content to embrace the serendipity of that remarkable trajectory without spending too much time to reflect upon it.

But as he prepares to lead the line for Scotland in Wednesday’s momentous World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine at Hampden, Adams does admit he now wishes he had committed his international future to the land of his Edinburgh-born maternal grandmother sooner.

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It was back in 2017 that then Scottish FA performance director Malky Mackay identified Adams’ eligibility but that initial approach was politely turned down as the striker continued to mull over his options.

Che Adams in action for England's under-20 side in a friendly against Czech Republic in Shrewsbury in September 2015. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

He had already rejected the chance to play for Antigua and Barbuda, the place of his father’s birth, in their 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifiers before making two appearances for England’s under-20 side in friendly matches the following year.

Having finally taken the plunge and answered Steve Clarke’s call-up to the Scotland squad in March last year, Adams has established himself as a key member of the side and a firm favourite with the Tartan Army.

Now the Leicester-born player, who started his senior career with his local club Oadby Town in the United Counties League after being released by Coventry City as a 14-year-old, is potentially just two games away from bagging a place at the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

“I can’t quite believe it,” says the £15 million Southampton striker. “It’s amazing, really, when you sit down and think about it.

Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams have emerged as Scotland's leading strikers during Steve Clarke's tenure as manager. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“It’s hard in football to stop and look back because football is just fast forward all the time. It’s about taking each game and trying to win.

“But it’s been amazing from the minute I walked in the door with Scotland. It’s just been a breath of fresh air for me.

“We have a really solid group here with good lads who are all pulling in the right direction. That's what you need and it’s clear to see it with the performances on the pitch. Everyone knows how together we are, how much we run for each other.

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“Do I wish I had committed to Scotland sooner? Yes – exactly that. It was difficult at the start with deciding to come but since I first arrived it’s been amazing. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the team and the manager.

Che Adams (left) in action for Southampton against Joel Matip of Liverpool on May 17. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

“It’s true I got called up for Antigua to play in the Caribbean Cup but I didn’t really fancy it. There were other tournaments as well with England when I was semi-professional that I could have gone to but I think I made an amazing choice coming into this set up.

“You look at where we are, having played in the Euros finals last summer and everything since then, it’s been an incredible experience.

“Everyone has welcomed me with open arms, including the fans. I’ve had so many amazing responses and I’ve just felt part of the family.

“I’ve loved every minute of it. Everyone’s got that dream they want to play international football. It makes you a better player. I’m just so happy I’m doing it with this team.”

Adams has impressed both as a lone striker for Scotland or in partnership with QPR front man Lyndon Dykes.

The 25-year-old, who scored in both of the final two World Cup qualifying group matches against Moldova and Denmark as a place in the play-offs was clinched, is content with either role.

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“I don’t mind,” he said. “It’s good to play up top on your own but obviously playing with Dykesy makes it a lot easier.

“I’ve played the lone striker role plenty of times. It’s different from playing with two but I like it. It was difficult when I came in as Lyndon was already here and scoring lots of goals.

“To partner him has been great, we’ve played well together. I think I can definitely improve as a player and we can as a squad as well.

“These games coming up are massive and it gives everyone this belief Scotland has a great team.”

If Scotland can overcome Ukraine on Wednesday and then Wales in the play-off final in Cardiff on Sunday, an enticing World Cup finals grouping with England, USA and Iran in Qatar awaits.

“It is a big incentive,” added Adams. “It gives everyone that bit more grit between the teeth.

“We’ve got Ukraine first, which is going to be difficult as well. We just need to get through this and then we’ll really build the belief.

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“Ukraine have got quality. The thing I’ve noticed about international football is you aren’t always up against the biggest of countries but they all have talent in their ranks.

“Every game is difficult. I’ve played against a few of the Ukraine players in the Premier League. Oleksandr Zinchenko is a great player, although I think he plays a different position with Ukraine than he does for Manchester City. They have a lot of top players.

“But they will be looking at us and thinking exactly the same thing. We have quality in the squad and great team character.

“That stuff doesn't come easy. We are also unbeaten in a while and that’s something we need to keep building.

“The foundations are there thanks to the gaffer and the team. It’s all on the pitch for everyone to see.”



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