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Charlie Adam: sitting pretty

AT first, Charlie Adam was reluctant to leave Rangers.

Ian Holloway, the Blackpool manager, even accused the midfielder of refusing to answer his phone calls.

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But having watched DVD footage of Adam in action, and heard around the seaside town how popular, and influential, the player had been during his loan spell at the club the previous season, Holloway persisted.

When they eventually met, it was Holloway who was blunt. “You know, I want to get to the Premier League,” he said to the young Scot. “And I want to get you to a top-four club.” Adam’s reaction was to submit to the manager’s charisma and bluffness; he signed, in a £500,000 transfer, and now 17 months later he is valued again, this time by other Barclay’s Premier League sides.

“I want him to go to a much bigger and better club,” Holloway said earlier this week. “But until I get the right phone call, he will crack on with us.” A bid of £2m from Birmingham has been rejected, and another of £2.5m from Aston Villa, but now Liverpool are said to be interested and it seems inevitable that Adam will move on again. For Rangers, the only consolation is 10% of a fee that might even rise as high as £5m, to accompany a few regrets about the way a talent has flourished since leaving Ibrox.

Adam was pigeon-holed by the time he left: a thickset, sedate midfielder capable of passes that were imaginative, in scale and ambition, and crisp shooting with his left foot, but also an imprudent lack of judgment and an air that could become melancholy on the field. Supporters began to distrust him, and he seemed stalked by jibes about his figure (not helped by a comment he once made about never having considered eating salad).

Yet if it was enough just for Adam to break out of a rut in Glasgow, he would still occasionally reveal the player he was then: wistful as much as incisive, a kind of compromise between the great sweep of his passing ability and a skittery poise. Instead, Adam has developed into a shrewd midfielder, his play shaped by aplomb, a sense of belonging and, most emphatically, of confidence.

Holloway has allowed a surge in the midfielder’s esteem, so that he is now considered a significant player in Craig Levein’s Scotland squad, and an accomplished enough performer in the Premier League for Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, to remark: “Ian Holloway has done a fantastic job. He brought Charlie Adam down from Glasgow when nobody seemed to want him and he is one of the best players in the league.”

What is at the root of this progress? In part, it is Holloway’s willingness to confound. At his first Blackpool training session, he told the players they were going to play like Barcelona. He lined them up in a 4-3-3 shape, asked them to keep the ball and to attack sides. In essence, he granted his players freedom, not only to express themselves, but also from trepidation.

For all that Adam sought to prove himself at Ibrox by hitting long passes that were too ambitious and too ill-conceived, he is not a cocky, arrogant figure. Holloway’s management rescued him from the doubt that left his composure so diminished. Even now, as captain of a Premier League team, and the player so central to Blackpool’s fortunes that their entire approach is moulded around him, Adam can still be fretful.

“He needs to believe in himself a bit more,” Holloway said. “He says he does, but he doesn’t really. You won’t get him strutting round the place like he’s a chocolate bar, licking himself. He’s not like that, but he is a fantastic footballer.”

There is a stubbornness to Adam – he fought Blackpool over a bonus clause in his contract that they were not willing to honour, and won – but his development can also be traced to something less acute: maturity. At Ibrox, he was a young player trying to make his way in the game, at a high-profile, intense level. Now 25, with a son, a fiancee and a less frantic nature, he is a more measured individual.

Blackpool have contributed to this. The players wash their own kit, and Adam tells stories of occasions when the team bus has caught fire or broken down. Yet so much of the club’s maverick, homespun nature is a consequence of Holloway that their success – individually (Adam is among many cast-offs or players with a point to prove at the club) and collectively – seems an aspect of his own character. Ahead of a game against Stoke City earlier this season, he took the players on a midweek trip to a casino. He has danced to Ghanaian gospel music in the Upton Park dressing room, and made the players dress in drag for a charity calendar (Holloway wore a penguin suit).

It is the trust he grants them that is crucial; it is as if he shoulders the responsibility so that the players can perform above themselves. A form of man-management, certainly, but few have taken to it so readily as Adam. So what is at the heart of this resurgence, this marked rise?

“I am a better player,” Adam says. “It’s as simple as that.”

Hands off, says Holloway

Ian Holloway, the Blackpool manager, has rejected Aston Villa’s £3.5m bid for Charlie Adam because he says, “you don’t get genius cheap”, writes Mark Walker.

The Blackpool and Scotland midfielder is a wanted man with several Premier League clubs lining up a bid for the former Rangers player.

Gerard Houllier, the Villa manager, had an offer rejected this week and Liverpool are also said to be interested in the playmaker but Holloway is determined to hold on to his captain.

He said: “They can shove their bid wherever they like it because if they think he is only worth £3.5m they are watching a different game to me.

“If they want to insult me by offering £3.5m then, sorry, they are barking up the wrong tree. I’ve seen what he does and some of it is genius – and you don’t get genius cheap.

“I think Charlie owes it to us to stay and then he will have a choice of clubs to go to as long as his arm. I want him to go to a club which is not struggling. It has always been my goal to get him to one of the top five or six clubs. If Manchester United ring me and make me a realistic offer, I might have to consider it but until then he’s staying put.”

Meanwhile, the Blackpool striker DJ Campbell insists Adam must remain at Bloomfield Road. The Scotland midfielder produced another impressive display as Holloway’s side completed the double over Liverpool, winning 2-1 at home in midweek.

Campbell insists it’s vital to the Lancashire side that Adam remains at the club. He said: “Charlie played really well again, despite the speculation.

“We’ve got genuine people in the Blackpool team. That’s the key to it, but we’ve also got good players.

“Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk about Charlie, but it’s really important that we keep him here.”

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