He’s one of the hottest properties in non-league football and attracting bids from some of the biggest clubs in the country, but is Che Adams getting carried away?
The 18-year-old Ilkeston FC youngster has taken the Evo-Stik Premier Division by storm since breaking into the Robins first team last season, so much so that offers for his services have reportedly been tabled by the likes of Newcastle United, Sunderland, Crewe Alexandra and Peterborough United, to name but a few.
All of that would be enough to have many young footballers suddenly daydreaming their way through matches as they think about what the future may hold, eventually letting the distractions get the better of their performances and making the watching scouts pack their notepads away again.
But Adams has kept his feet firmly on the ground. A shy but polite teenager, he has continued to let his football do the talking with impressive displays, stunning goals and a consistency that has seen the aforementioned scouts keep coming back for more.
“I like it,” said Adams, shortly after discovering he had made the final squad of 16 for England C’s match with Estonia in Halifax next Tuesday.
“Playing under pressure is good for me but at the same time I don’t want to make any mistakes when the scouts are watching.
“It’s really important I stay disciplined and keep concentrating because that’s helped me so far and I feel both the team and I have benefited.”
Hailing from Leicester, Adams began his footballing career at local club Highfield Rangers as a seven-year-old before earning a place in Coventry City’s academy where he remained until being released at the age of 14.
A spell back in his home city with St Andrews was followed by the chance of some first team football with Oadby Town as a 16-year-old, before the chance to take part in trials at the newly-formed Ilkeston FC saw him impress manager Kevin Wilson and secure a spot in the Robins academy set-up.
“It’s a great place to be with coaches who have really good experience at the top levels of the game,” said Adams.
“Obviously Kevin enforces a good sense of discipline here and whilst some players struggle to cope with that, they’re mostly the ones who now aren’t here as a result and for the rest of us it’s been a great place to learn.”
Despite the Robins’ clear ethos of blooding young players who train full-time, Adams admits he was still surprised at how quickly he became part of the first team.
He said: “I always felt I’d be good enough to get first team football but it was just a case of when that would happen.
“Thankfully I adapted quite well. It’s a tough level to come in at as you’re being kicked everywhere every week but that physical side of it is good as it toughens you up.
“I think it’s been better to play first team football here than, for example, to have stayed at Coventry where lads my age are being released without having played a competitive game.”
On his call-up to the England ‘C’ squad - a rarity for someone playing at step three of the non-league pyramid - Adams added: “I’m buzzing and can’t wait to join up with the squad after our game on Saturday.
“Most of the team is older than me and playing at a higher level, so I’m really excited about being involved.”
The interest generated by Adams has been impossible for Ilkeston fans and staff not to notice and naturally the player himself was soon flattered to be having his name muttered in the same sentences as some major forces in English football, be that due to their stature in the game or their proven track records of bringing young players through and sending them off to greater things.
“It’s hard to believe some of the clubs I’ve been linked with but it’s obviously a massive thrill and exciting as well,” he said.
“It was difficult at first but I have an agency representing me now and they’re taking the pressure off a bit, as are my mum and my brother who are vital support to me too.
“I just want to play football and keep working hard for Ilkeston. That’s the way I’ve always been, and whatever will happen in the future will happen.
“Your place isn’t safe at any club if you don’t work hard to keep it.”
Truer words have rarely been spoken, and whatever that future does hold for Adams, it will surely be a bright one.
by Mark Duffy (Twitter - @DuffersSport)