CHARLIE Adam could well be Kenny Dalglish's specialist subject.
After a failed attempt by Dalglish's Liverpool side to sign him from Blackpool the previous January, the midfielder pitched up at Anfield for the princely sum of £6.75 million in July 2011.
Adam impressed only sporadically during a season that yielded Carling Cup success and moved to Stoke City just over a year later for £5m. However, recent weeks have seen the 28-year-old recapture something of the goalscoring form he enjoyed at Blackpool, which brought him to Liverpool's attention.
Loading article content
His tally of seven for the season has included spectacular efforts against Liverpool and Manchester United. Adam's skillset presents managers with a conundrum over where, if anywhere, he should be accommodated in their team.
This is particularly so in the unforgiving environment of international football. While he is a regular in Gordon Strachan's Scotland squads, the 24-times-capped player has yet to start a competitive game under the current manager.
As a consequence, Adam has been unable to resurrect a Scotland career that for many remains defined by his unwillingness to track Gareth Bale during the World Cup qualifying defeat in Cardiff in October 2012.
Dalglish, though, feels Adam could yet prove an important member of the international squad which will learn its opponents for the 2016 European Championship when the draw takes place in Nice a week today. "When he was at Liverpool we won the Carling Cup so I wouldn't undermine what he did there too readily," said Dalglish. "But it is good to see Charlie back playing well. It is always helpful to Gordon if the Scottish boys are playing well.
"If somebody has abilities and a contribution to make you try your best to fit them in. It is not always about the manager, it is down to players themselves. If they want to get into the squad, they know what they need to do, and that's what Charlie is doing right now. He has real end product to his game, particularly recently, where he has made a few and scored a few. That is going to help him, but he has to keep it going until the qualifying games come round. Let's hope he hasn't hit his peak too soon."
While Craig Levein's solution to the Adam dilemma, born of a fine display off the bench in a 2-2 draw against Spain at Hampden, was to feature him in a deep-lying "quarter back" role, the player's renaissance under Mark Hughes at Stoke has come behind a lone striker.
"It all depends how Gordon wants to play him," Dalglish said. "I didn't used him defensively, I never looked at him in that way, but sometimes other people see things you don't see. Charlie can play football, that is the most important thing.
"Find a role for him and work out what is best for him. For somebody to play well defensively is every bit as important as for somebody to play well offensively, so if he can do those two jobs then you have a player who can help you in some way shape or form."
Adam earns extra respect in Dalglish's eyes for abandoning his comfortable existence at Anfield in search of first-team football at the Britannia Stadium. "It is all well and good being at a big club, but those who just sit there and take their wages are the ones who you need to be critical of, not the ones who go and play football," Dalglish said.
"Your football career is like life in general, it is not a rehearsal for anything, is it? You get one chance and if you have a decision to make, then you make the decision. The people who take the decision to try to play football, they are the admirable ones. It tells you something about the person. You know he wants to play."
Scotland will be in the fourth pot of seeds when the draw is made. The expanded format of the tournament means the top two sides in every group, and the best of the third-placed teams, qualify by right, The other teams who finish third in their groups go into play-offs. In total, 24 nations out of 53 will qualify.
Dalglish, who never graced the European finals himself, said of Scotland's chances: "The signs are really encouraging. The wee man [Strachan] has an understanding of what he needs to do and I think the players understand him. A good relationship between the manager and the players can only be helpful, but you still need a bit of luck to get through, to avoid quality teams in the draw. You always need luck. Never mind the glamour teams, let's just get the bad teams."
* Kenny Dalglish was speaking in conjunction with Greaves Sports and Under Armour