Stoke City: Wigan factor can inspire Adam to show his true colours
WILL the sight of Wigan this evening finally inspire some of the old Charlie Adam magic?
The mercurial midfielder has, by his own admission perhaps, been something of a sideshow during the first five months of his Stoke career.
How different it all promised to be back on his debut at Wigan on September 1.
He stepped off the bench during the first half and immediately began imposing himself on the game with a mixture of tidy control, snappy passing and 20-20 vision.
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Here, it seemed at the time, was a player to crank up the skill factor in a Stoke side left all the more functional by last summer's departure of Ricardo Fuller.
He never once lost the ball, or so it seemed, and in the second half we caught a tasty little glimpse of what we thought was to follow for Adam and for Stoke.
It was a sniping little through ball inside the Wigan full-back for Michael Kightly on the left wing.
Kightly didn't read the pass and the ball trickled harmlessly into no man's land – but that wasn't the point.
For here was a player, assuming his colleagues could learn to be on the same wavelength, who would manipulate the ball in tight areas and at unlikely angles to complement the more regimented efforts of those around him.
But that debut at Wigan, sadly, is as good as it's got.
So what has gone wrong?
Some will point at the player for lacking the fitness and energy to fulfil the role being asked of him.
Others will point to that role, an attacking midfield brief behind the main striker, and say that just isn't playing to Adam's strengths.
The Scotsman, they will argue, needs to be stationed deeper, must have the play in front of him, then he can start dictating the pace and direction of the play with his greatest gift, that left foot of his.
Tony Pulis has been reluctant to play him in a midfield two because Adam's various attributes have never included the mobility and defensive awareness required by the Stoke boss.
Pulis signed him from Liverpool last August in the belief he could raise the X-Factor by playing further forward to not only support the main striker, but also nip in with a few goals himself.
Only briefly has that hinted at working, however, when Adam chipped in with the only goal in successive home wins over QPR and Fulham in November.
Since then there has been the personal tragedy of losing his father just before Christmas which, while not wanting to make excuses, has hardly helped a player already striving for his best form at a new club.
Alan Hudson, that most mercurial of all Stoke midfielders, was certain that Adam would prove a success at the Britannia and become as popular with the City faithful as he once was... well nearly.
"Stoke have been crying out for a play-maker and this is the closest they've got to having one," said Hudson, below left, shortly after Adam's arrival.
But crucially, perhaps, he qualified his statement by adding: "Stoke now have a chance to make Charlie Adam a real big part of the team, to play through him all the time. You have to use Adam though. He should be the first option whenever Stoke get the ball."
To which the critics would respond by saying he hasn't been used in this way and has spent far too much time chasing rather than directing.
But Hudson also added: "He's the kind of player who will respond in any system because he's hungry for the ball and doesn't lack on work-rate."
One good game might just launch Adam and his Stoke career, you suspect, and a repeat of the last time he played against Wigan would be a welcome starting point this evening.