Che Adams has gone from non-league striker with Ilkeston to a Premier League star at Southampton – and former manager Kevin Wilson couldn’t be happier he’s received Scotland recognition.

Much is made of Jamie Vardy’s rise from non-league to winning the Premier League with Leicester City but Wilson found his own story to mould. Watching a trial game in Leicester, the former Chelsea forward and Northern Ireland international spotted a 15-year-old Adams. Now that striker has been called up by Scotland via the grandparent rule ahead of World Cup qualifying this month.


Found at a Leicester City trial game. (Photo by ALEX PANTLING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

He was taken into Ilkeston’s academy in 2013, playing below the National League North, and Adams grafted for his move to Sheffield United in 2014. It provided him with a platform, moving from the Blades to Birmingham City, before ending up at Southampton in 2019.

Wilson is delighted that former Chelsea teammate Steve Clarke has now convinced Adams to play on the international scene for Scotland: “He was 15 and I have watched his development from when he was playing a trial game at Leicester City.

“I got a comment that he was a street kid. I saw raw talent from the boy and he drifts past people with power and strength, he scores goals. He’s developed as he’s gone on, and I’m sure he’ll tell you, I was a hard taskmaster at Ilkeston!

Ilkeston Town Press Conference

Hard work started in non-league. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

“I wanted the best for him and we had a good set-up at Ilkeston. The opportunities came for the ones who were developing and that was what happened with Che. He got his opportunity in the first-team after doing really well in our academy.

“His rise has been something dramatic as we sold him to Sheffield United. It’s moved quite quickly for him, as he’s gone from Sheffield United to Birmingham City and then Southampton in the Premier League. But it’s nothing more than I expected from the boy.”

The Premier League affords some players the luxury of setting themselves up for life-changing moves, but it hasn’t always been easy for Adams to even get to training, never mind play in the top flight of English football.

Southampton v Manchester United - Premier League

Worked to the top. (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images)

Wilson explained: “He used to travel from Leicester to Ilkeston. It took him a train and a couple of buses to get there but he was never late, he was always there on time. He wanted to do it and it’s great respect to him.

“He’s a level-headed boy and I still speak to him on a regular basis. When I heard he got the Scotland call, I was straight on the phone to congratulate him as it’s nothing more than the boy deserves for all his hard work.”

With striker becoming a tricky position for Scotland to fill in recent years, the Southampton forward will certainly be a boost to Clarke’s frontline. Wilson expects him to get firing in navy blue ahead of the nation’s return to tournament football this summer at Euro 2020.

The former Ilkeston boss said: “He’s a bit of a maverick because he can do things that gets people off their seats. It’s a great opportunity for him, he’s got the opportunity through his grandparents.

“I said to him it’s an opportunity that he can’t turn down and I hope that it’s just the beginning for him. If he can do well there is a chance to play at Euro 2020 which would be a great start. He’s made the right choice.

“I know Steve Clarke from my playing days at Chelsea and I know what type of guy he is. I think he will bring the best out of Che. Steve’s a good lad and was an exceptional player himself, he was a good teammate.

Belgium v Scotland -EURO Qualifier

A former teammate. (Photo by Soccrates/Getty Images)

“There are lots of gems in non-league. At one stage we had 43 scouts and managers at one game and perhaps 11 agents. That showed you how much interest there was not only in Che but Ilkeston as a whole at the time. But Che was the standout.

“When you see what I have seen when he was younger – what he’s put in to get here – his first contract was £40 per-week and it’s certainly a great story. But there are a lot more Che Adams’ out there.”

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