Despite leaving one of the Premier League’s ‘big boys’ over three years ago, Charlie Adam is aiming to add more major silverware to his trophy cabinet with Stoke City.
Having joined 18-time league champions and five-time European Cup winners Liverpool back in 2011 from Blackpool, the midfielder lifted the League Cup in his debut season at Anfield, where he scored twice in 37 appearances for Kenny Dalglish’s Reds.
However, the Scotland international became increasingly frustrated at his lack of first-team starts for the club and opted for a summer switch to the Britannia Stadium after just 13 months at Anfield.
Now managed by Mark Hughes, Adam believes Potters fans won’t have to wait too much longer before celebrating the club’s first domestic honour since their 2002 League One play-off final triumph.
Last month’s League Cup victory over holders Chelsea signaled Stoke’s silverware intent this season, with Adam confident the club can go all the way in the competition.
Until then, the 29-year-old remains solely focused on helping the club achieve a third successive best-ever finish in the Premier League this campaign, with the Potters currently on an improved run of four victories from their last six games.
Shoot spoke exclusively to Adam about life at the Britannia, Hughes’ impact at Stoke, the club’s trophy target and his thoughts on Scotland’s 2018 World Cup qualifying group.
You joined Stoke City back in 2012 after leaving Liverpool. How are you enjoying your time at the club?
“Yeah, I am enjoying it. Obviously the first year was a bit up and down, both on and off the pitch. But it has gone well the past couple of years. We have finished in the top ten on both occasions which has been good for the club.”
No doubt leaving Liverpool must have been hard. But what is it about Stoke that has made you feel at home?
“I think the whole club, the players, the staff and the fans; there is a real connection with everyone here. It has been great. Obviously the new manager has come in over the last couple of years and we have improved a lot. We are trying to progress as a club and we seem to be doing that.”
Stoke finished ninth in the Premier League last season. Are you confident the club can improve upon that position?
“I think in the early part of this season, we were disappointed with how we played. But that comes with new players, ideas and the international break probably hasn’t helped us a lot. So once we get a settled side and get into a rhythm of no international games, we will be fine. In the last couple of years, we have finished the season well, which is good. So hopefully we can do that again.”
You have scored 15 goals in the past two seasons. Although you’re not a striker, are you aiming for a similar amount this term?
“Yeah, I always set a target to reach double figures as a midfielder. But for the last few games, I have been playing a little bit deeper, so it has been more difficult to get up and into those [attacking] positions. I still think I can add to my goal tally from now until the end of the season, so hopefully I can do that.”
A few more goals like that Chelsea one last season would be great so you could get the robot out again…
“Yeah; listen, it was a once in a lifetime moment. These things happen and if it happened again, I don’t know what I would do. I think Chelsea were playing for a foul on [Eden] Hazard and Stephen Ireland put the ball up to Jonathan Walters and he laid it off. I was driving with it and there was nothing in front of me. I have seen the goalkeeper off his line and just had an effort. Fortunately it went over his head and went in! But we lost the game, which was a big disappointment. It was great for me, personally. I got a bit of coverage over it and people are still talking about it now. But for me, it has gone and I am just trying to get more goals.”
The club caught the headlines over the summer by signing Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri. Does that show the ambition of the club?
“Yeah, I think you have got to move with the times. They spent a lot of money on Shaqiri for Stoke, but with the day and age now of the Premier League, £10m is a nominal fee and it is only going to get bigger. So as the club is developing with everytime we stay in the league, we are going to have to progress, matching the clubs around us and what they are doing. The manager has got a good scouting system in place and hopefully we can recruit well again.”
Despite the big signings, goalkeeper Jack Butland has been hugely impressive so far this term. For someone that works with him on a daily basis, just how good is he?
“Yeah, I always knew he would be a top goalkeeper. When he started at Birmingham, he played a number of games and he came here and found it difficult to get in front of Asmir [Begovic]. But now obviously Asmir has moved on, rightly so the manager has gone and given confidence [in Jack] to be the number one. He is doing that at the moment and he is getting the rewards for Stoke and also for England.”
What have you made of Mark Hughes’ impact at the club since arriving back in May 2013?
“He has made a big impact at the club, in a short period of time. The players that we have recruited, the way he wants to play and the results. We have had some big results, home and away, most notably beating Manchester City at the Etihad [Stadium] last season. We are progressing well under him. We just need to get a consistent run of winning games, like we have done in the last month or so. If we do that then we will be able to continue that progression.”
Some say Hughes has taken Stoke ‘to the next level’ since succeeding Tony Pulis. What is it about the Welshman’s reign that has led to the club’s best-ever finishes in the Premier League?
“Well I think he has brought in good players. Obviously as a management style, it is different and the training is different. He has recruited good players, technically very good players who are willing to work hard. You need a mix of everything. You need your technical players, but you also need people in there that are going to work hard and do the other side of it. We have got a good group, a good mix and hopefully over the season the results can pick up again and we can finish higher than ninth because that was the aim at the start of the season. Also we are still in the [League] Cup, so that is a positive.”
You mentioned the League Cup, a competition which you won previously with Liverpool. Now Stoke are in the quarter-finals, you must be aiming to get to Wembley?
“We want to win it! We are in the quarter-finals at home. We could of played anybody, but as long as we are at home, any home tie is a good one. We have drawn Sheffield Wednesday and we know there is going to be pressure on us because we are expected to win. But they are going well in the Championship so it will be a tough game. But at home we expect to beat anybody and we are aiming to win it at Wembley.”
Scotland fell short of their mission to qualify for Euro 2016. You wasn’t involved too much but how disappointing was missing out?
“It was a major disappointment. That’s from the outside, because I wasn’t really part of it or played in it. I wasn’t involved in many of the games. So as a supporter, it was a massive disappointment that we have not qualified. I expected us to qualify with obviously 24 teams and third place play-offs, but we didn’t. The results were not good enough and that’s the main fact. The manager [Gordon Strachan] has obviously signed a new contract for the next couple of years, so it will be interesting to see what his plans and how he looks to go forward.”
Your last appearance for your country came back in June. How determined are you to re-establish yourself back in the Scotland set-up?
“I have always said before; when I am playing well and when I am playing every week, I am confident that I can get back in the team. It is disappointing not to be involved, but you have to take it on the chin and move on. When you are ready and you get the opportunity to play, then you have got to take it.”
Scotland have been drawn alongside England, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. What do you make of that line-up?
“It is a tough group. England and Slovakia are good teams, so it will be a tricky group. But we seem to do well against the bigger nations, so hopefully that’ll be good. Our focus for now will be basically just getting games under our belts so we are ready for when qualifying starts.”