Less than three months into 2014, Charlee Adams can already consider the year a success in footballing terms.
Since the turn of the year, the 19-year-old midfielder has made his Blues first team bow, as well as cementing a regular place in Lincoln City’s side after joining the Skrill Premier side on loan. His status is a culmination of 11 years of hard work, since joining West Ham United as an eight-year-old. For the boyhood Hammers fan, being picked up by his local club was every youngster’s dream.
“I was born in Redbridge which was just two minutes up the road from where West Ham trained and I grew up near the stadium,” explain Adams. “My family are all West Ham fans and I signed for West Ham when I was eight but I was there before that. I used to train with West Ham with a few of the lads and because we couldn’t sign until we were eight we went out and played Sunday League and then I think seven of us out of that team joined West Ham. In the end I was there for eight years."
Disappointingly for Adams, the Hammers chose not to keep him on when he reached the age of 16, but their loss was Blues' gain as he elected to make the move up to the second city. He admits that being a home bird, it was difficult in the initial stages.
“Moving away from home to join Birmingham on a two-year scholarship was a big step,” he says. “I’m quite close to my family and at first it was really tough, but I got used to it. After the first year it was fine. I found it really tough in my first year because I wasn’t getting into the team as much as I liked. Obviously you shouldn’t just expect to get into the team because you’ve got second years above you. But I had a lot of support from the youth-team coaches and they just said keep doing what you’re doing and stick at it and work hard. The second year was a great year for me and helped me get my professional contract last summer.”
The best day of Adams’ fledgling Birmingham career arrived on January 14 this year when he was given the opportunity to make his first-team debut against Bristol Rovers at St. Andrew's. Blues were already leading the FA Cup tie against the Pirates 3-0 when Adams was sent on as a late replacement for Olly Lee.
“It was a great moment for me and my family making my debut,” he admits. “Ahead of the match I'd spoken to my mum and told her I had a chance of being on the bench, so I got them some tickets and they came to the game. I didn’t expect to come on but once we went 3-0 up, I had a little feeling hoping the gaffer would chuck me on and he did. He just said get ball, move it, be confident and go and enjoy it and I did. It was great for my family to be there to watch it and I know they were very proud.”
Although his Blues debut may have been fleeting, it had the added bonus of alerting other clubs to Adams’ abilities. “I'd been wanting to go out on loan for I while and as soon as soon as I made my debut a few more teams start to look at me,” he acknowledges. “It was straight after that that all the loan offers came in and on deadline day I decided to join Lincoln City.”
Adams’ move to the Imps has coincided with a marked upturn in fortunes for the Lincolnshire club. Gary Simpson's side have won five, drawn two and lost two of the loanee’s first nine games – a run which has seen them slowly but surely climb the table. Following last night's home win against Braintree they are just five points adrift of a play-off place with seven games remaining, so have not totally ruled out a late push for a top-five berth. More importantly for Adams, it has also given him the first team competitive experience he craves.
“It’s been really good and is great for my development because it is so different from U21s football back at Birmingham,” says the teenager. “I’ve got to know the lads really well, which has helped. I’m learning something new each day. The footballing side of things is different and the style of football is a bit more direct. There is no better feeling on a Saturday afternoon than playing in a league fixture in a 3pm kick-off and actually playing for something. It’s a lot better for me and my development.
“Now I’m here I realise how important it is to keep pushing up the league. We’re on a good run at the moment. We’re taking each game as it comes at the moment, but if we win the next few games we’re in with a right chance."
Since mid-February there has been a familiar face alongside Adams at Sincil Bank with Blues compatriot Nick Townsend in goal. A string of fine performances from the young keeper has quickly seen him become a popular figure with the home support, and for that they can thanks Adams, as he explains.
“Lincoln lost their first choice goalkeeper Paul Farman, so I recommended Nick to the guys at Lincoln and told them how good he is. They were a bit unsure at first because of his height, but I said if you want to get someone really good, get him in. They’ve thanked me for it because they’ve seen how good he is and how well has he has done.”
So what next for Adams? “It's great for me at Lincoln because I’m playing week in and week out," he adds. “Some weeks we are playing three games, which is good for my fitness and is how I'm going to have to play if I want to make it to the top. I'm just going to keep working hard at Lincoln, hope I keep doing well and see what happens from there. My contract with Birmingham runs until the summer but there have been no talks about contracts yet.”