Sheffield United: A revolution of youth: The story of Che Adams’ rise to the Blades, told by the man who knows him best

Sheffield United's new signing Che Adams with manager Nigel Clough.

Sheffield United's new signing Che Adams with manager Nigel Clough.

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Any youngster christened Che Zach Everton Fred Adams at birth was perhaps always destined to become a big name.

But, as the man responsible for his development told The Star last night, it wasn’t the memorable moniker of Sheffield United’s latest signing which caught the eye of Bramall Lane boss Nigel Clough.

Kevin Wilson

Kevin Wilson

Instead, according Adams’ old boss Kevin Wilson, it was goals.

“Che is one of those players that comes along every so often and makes you think, ‘wow’,” said Wilson, who gave 18-year-old Adams his first-team debut at Ilkeston FC before his move to Bramall Lane last week.

“He has a real knack of doing things in games that really make you stand up and take notice.

“He’s got pace in abundance, but he’s really powerful too. I remember a goal he scored against FC United of Manchester, where he picked the ball up in his own half, drove at their defence and finished in the bottom corner.

Che Adams

Che Adams

“That’s just one example of his ability which sticks in my mind.

“Like the rest of us, Che needs a little bit of luck but if he continues to progress as he is, then he can go all the way in the game.

“Without a doubt.”

Clough beat off interest from a host of Championship clubs - and some from the Premier League - to secure the signature of Adams, a former member of Coventry City’s academy set-up.

“We had 45 scouts watching Che at a recent game of ours,” Wilson continued.

“There was so much interest in him because people can see the potential he has. Before he left I think he’d scored nine goals in 16 games, which is a decent return for any player. But he’d also chipped in with 11 assists in that period, too. He’s got it all.

“His biggest asset is that knack of changing games in the blink of an eye. He stands defenders up and then leaves them for dead. In fact, I’d say he’s capable of doing things that I haven’t seen players do for a long, long time.”

That’s a bold claim, especially considering Wilson’s long career in the game. As a player he made over 600 appearances for the likes of Derby, Ipswich and Chelsea, winning 42 caps for Northern Ireland.

And, as he revealed yesterday, almost signed for United himself.

“I scored two goals in three reserve games, against the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Everton,” Wilson, pictured above, remembers: “Harry Haslam was the United manager at the time and I was at Banbury United,” he said.

“But they turned me down on medical grounds, because of my knee.

“But I know it’s a good club for Che. Nigel is well-known for giving youngsters a chance - he signed Ben Pringle from us at Derby - and I know he’s impressed by Che so far, from his displays in training.

“I signed Stevie Howard at Northampton and remember saying that he’ll play in the Premier League. I think a few people doubted me when he got sent off in his first game!

“But he eventually did reach the top and, if everything goes well, there’s no reason why Che can’t do the same.

“He’s a conscientious kid, he wants to learn and everyone here will keep track of his career with an enormous sense of pride.

“Seeing him earn a move to United is a big plus for our academy. We’ve produced 29 players for the first team over the last three years, and the average age of our first team is just 19.

“I remember first seeing Che in a trial game at Leicester. He was playing grassroots football at the time and he struck me as someone who had slipped through the net.

“Nigel and I had a few discussions about him and I told him that I hadn’t seen anyone like Che for a long, long time.

“He’s a real loss for us but he is definitely Sheffield United’s gain.”