At the start of the year, Blackpool were riding high following their promotion to England’s top flight. The team predicted to be the Premier League’s whipping boys were in the top half of the table thanks largely to wonderful away wins at Wigan Athletic, Newcastle United, Liverpool, Stoke City and Sunderland.
However, 2011 has been a cruel year for the Tangerines. They have won just twice in 16 league games and now find themselves in the relegation zone, one point away from safety. Yet with winnable home games against Newcastle (Saturday), Stoke (30 April) and Bolton Wanderers (14 May) to come, their future is in their own hands – and the key to that future could be Charlie Adam.
The 25-year-old Scot has been a revelation for the Seasiders this season, scoring nine goals from midfield and earning a nomination for the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Player of the Year Award in the process. More established clubs in the Premier League are courting his signature; Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur both failed in deadline day moves, while Sir Alex Ferguson proclaimed that his corners alone were worth £10m.
FIFA.com caught up with the Scotland international at Bloomfield Road this week to ask him about the battle against relegation, the PFA nomination and his future at the club.
FIFA.com: Being born and bred as a Scot, growing up with Dundee and then Rangers, how difficult was it for you to leave and come down here?
Charlie Adam: It was difficult to leave but as soon as I came here, I was delighted to come to a club like this because it’s fantastic. Obviously, when you leave a club like Rangers you don’t know what’s going to happen but fortunately I’ve come here and we’ve done well.
How different is it to go from a club like Rangers, where every whim is catered for, to coming to Blackpool as a pro?
I found it easy to be honest. It just makes you appreciate what you had at Rangers. Sometimes some of the kids coming through have never experienced the other side of it. I had experienced it here; I’d come on loan so I knew what was going to happen when I signed here, that was the important bit. But for kids at the top clubs, you don’t always realise how tough it is at the other clubs.
Is that not a testament to your character in being able to adapt?
Yeah, maybe, but I just get on with it. The most important thing is for me as a person to never change and to try and play and do what’s right for me and the team.
If you think about your time here at Blackpool, there’s never been a dull moment. In your first season you had the successful fight against relegation, in the next promotion and now you have another battle on your hands. Have you learned lessons from two years ago?
I’ve learned lessons since I walked in this club, but this time it’s a different pressure. For this club, I think it’s easier when we’re chasing. We seem to not relish being above where we’re expected to be and when we have to chase, we seem to do it well. We’re below it [the relegation line] now and we’ve got to chase the teams above us, in the hope that they’ll crash. We’ll just have to see what happens in the next five games. If we win as many as we can, then we’ll give ourselves a good opportunity.
The last game against Wigan Athletic must have been disappointing for you. Everybody here seemed to be focused on winning that game and then getting that momentum.
We were disappointed with the performance and the result wasn’t great but we’ve still got five games. We’re in the mix so we want to give it a really good go and try to enjoy it. There are no easy games in this league, but then again there are no easy games in football. Everybody says it was a must-win game against Wigan but, no, we’re still in the mix. In truth, we were always going to still be in the mix, so we’re just going to take each game as it comes, take each point as it comes and then just see what happens. At the end of the day, if we are good enough to stay up we’ll stay up. If not we’ll see what happens. That’s just the way football is.
How would you rate your chances?
It’s difficult to say. We have three home games, which is a positive. But at the end of the day, we are in the mix – and football can be great, but also cruel sometimes. We’ve got five games to go, three or four teams that we can catch and we want to have have a right good go at it and just try and get as many wins as we can. If it’s good enough we’ll stay up, and if not we will go down.
As captain, is there any more pressure on yourself?
Yeah, there’s pressure because you lead the lads every game and people focus on you, but we’re a group. We’re a team, so we take the pressure as a team and we take the criticism we get on the chin. To relieve that pressure and relieve that criticism, you have to win games and a win here on Saturday would be nice. We beat Newcastle earlier in the season away from home, so we have nothing to fear.
Your manager, Ian Holloway, is a colourful character. What’s he like to work with on a day-to-day basis?
He’s good. He’s become very thorough in what he does, he’s a good manager and sometimes I think you need setbacks in life to give you a push. I think the year he had away from the game has helped him to come back into it and give it a right good go. He’s done a terrific job for this club.
Earlier this week you were in London as you were nominated as the Premier League’s Player of the Season, but I’m sure you’d swap that nomination for safety.
Of course, without a shadow of a doubt. The most important thing is the club and the players that are here, so I’d swap it anytime of the day. However, to be recognised by your fellow peers is an achievement in itself, so on a personal level its fantastic. It’s also a testament to the lads that I’ve got here and I play with because they’ve helped me get recognised.
As for yourself in the future, what do you see? What are your targets?
My targets are the five games and safety. We’ll let the future take care of itself. I don’t make the decision about my future, the club make it and at the end of the day the club is the most important thing. First and foremost we have to stay in the Premier League.