From non-league to the Championship, Fulham’s summer recruit Ben Pringle has experienced a terrific rise to the second highest tier of English football. Having started his journey at Wallsend Boys – the same youth outfit as Alan Shearer and Steve Bruce – the 26-year-old, then only a teenager, made his move to West Bromwich Albion, where he was unfortunate not to make the grade.
A spell outside the football league followed, as he earned his merit at Newcastle Blue Star, before joining Morpeth Town, and later Ilkeston Town. However, destined for bigger things, his performances at this level soon attracted the attention of Nigel Clough’s Derby, the side that offered the Geordie his first shot at senior action in the Championship.
Nonetheless, still only in his early twenties at this stage, and despite showing a tremendous amount of promise, Pringle was not content with his role as a peripheral player with the Midlands club. Following a brief spell on loan with Torquay United, he made the admirable decision to join League Two outfit Rotherham United.
A double promotion ensued, with Pringle playing a starring role in the Millers’ impressive climb up the hazardous English football ladder. It took a second placed finish in 2013, and a victory at Wembley – in front of 43,000 spectators – just a year later to confirm Rotherham’s Championship status.
Five years on from the summer in which he first signed for the Yorkshire based-club, Pringle has now moved onto pastures new. Indeed, following a successful final season with the Millers – in which they achieved their ultimate goal of avoiding the Championship drop zone – the Geordie opted to see out the end of his contract, before sealing a move to Craven Cottage with Fulham.
Less than a week after his switch, we sat down with Ben to discuss his recent transfer; a move he is “delighted” with. Following his departure from Rotherham he has been speaking to a few teams who had been interested. However, as soon as he learnt of Fulham’s interest in his services, he was quick to push a move. “As soon as I knew there was interest, I wanted to sign there,” he said. “I think the platform they have set themselves, to kick on and try to get back in the Premier League, is why I wanted to sign here. It’s a massive club.”
Understandably eager to make his competitive debut, it was the opening fixture of the season that first attracted Ben’s attention upon the release of the 2015/16 fixture list. The Cottagers travel to Cardiff City on the opening day of the campaign, before meeting Rotherham at the New York Stadium towards the end of August. “The first thing I looked for was the opening game of the season and when I would make my debut,” he said, “Then of course I looked for both of the Rotherham games. It will be nice to go back and I am looking forward to it.”
Considering his contribution during his time with the Millers, one would imagine that Ben’s return will be met with a tremendous level of respect. After all, who could fault someone for wishing to achieve a personal dream. For the 26-year-old, the ambition and professionalism shown at Fulham is exactly what is expected of a club aiming to one day return to the highest echelon of the Football League.
Ben may only have joined his new club relatively recently, but already he has noticed distinct differences between the set-up of a side who were operating in the Premier League a matter of seasons ago and Rotherham, who’s success far outweighs the quality of the facilities at their disposal; testament to the players, staff and fans who have steered the club to such heights.
“The first thing I noticed was the size of the training ground and the facilities inside,” Ben described. “From the back room and fitness staff to the work on the training pitch, everything is very thorough.”
Like all those who experience relegation from the top flight, Fulham is evidently a club chomping at the bit to make a return to the country’s most illustrious sporting division. A theme of “professionalism” ran throughout our discussion with Ben; a trait that will play a vital role when it comes to the London club’s future prospects.
Despite his departure, Ben’s achievements with Rotherham will not be easily forgotten. He accrued 146 league appearances throughout his spell, playing a major role in the club’s aforementioned back-to-back promotions. We were eager to hear the 26-year-old’s best memories from his time with the Millers. Naturally, his trip to Wembley – during which he successfully converted a penalty in the final shoot-out – ranked at the top of his list of anecdotes.
“Obviously the final at Wembley was by far the greatest memory, but the best personal memories for me include scoring the winner against Sheffield Wednesday in the [Capital One] cup.” This first round fixture saw Ben smash the Yorkshire outfit ahead after just ten minutes, in a match that would eventually conclude with a 2-1 scoreline.
He also made reference to the play-off semi-final home leg versus Preston, a tie the Millers won 4-2 on aggregate, “for me, I thought I played well and managed to assist two goals which I was pleased with.” He added, “For the team it was a great night as we knew we were going to Wembley.” Indeed, the club travelled to London just over a week later, and as the old cliché goes, the rest is history.
Although difficult to believe, it was not all plain sailing for Ben at Rotherham. Indeed, after an impressive few months at the club – a period in which he made nine appearances in total – he soon found first team football difficult to come by. “For whatever reason the manager (Andy Scott) just didn’t like me,” he explained. “I tried everything I could to get in the team. I remember not having a day off for eight weeks, constantly asking what I could do and how I could get better.”
However, in mid-March the situation soon changed, as an under-pressure Andy Scott took a chance on the underused winger. The manager was sacked soon after, current boss Steve Evans took the reigns, and Ben’s career with the Millers went from strength to strength. “I played the last eleven games of the season and I have never looked back,” he described.
Would he ever have expected such a meteoric rise, both as a team and on a personal level? The answer is simple, no. The level-headed Geordie could only have dreamt of the club’s achievements over the past few years following his descent to League Two in 2011.
“When I first signed, I didn’t really know what kind of journey I would go on with the team,” he confessed. “I would never have expected in a millions years that we would eventually achieve what we did. To get promoted from League Two was kind of expected, especially with the new stadium completed. However, after that, to then go again and stay in the play-offs all season was unbelievable.”
With Rotherham promoted to the Championship, Ben’s previous experience of the division from his time at Derby – with whom he made 20 league appearances – proved vitally important. “I think that helped massively. It made me aware of the quality of players and teams in the division, and I experienced playing at some top grounds in front of big crowds. When I returned with Rotherham, I felt I knew what was coming.”
He continued to express the benefit of training alongside the international players plying their trade at Derby, describing this as “an invaluable learning curve.” Among those names were current Celtic midfielder Kris Commons, now-Porto striker Alberto Bueno and retired Welshman/Match of the Day’s ‘marmite’ pundit Robbie Savage. Playing with them daily helped him “massively”.
Ben’s experience proved a tremendous asset as he enjoyed a stellar return to the second tier of English football. He scored no less than three goals, while providing a further seven assists – a tally he is determined to build upon at Craven Cottage – as the Millers achieved a 21st place finish and survival, albeit by the slimmest of margins.
Despite his impressive form, when discussing the step-up from League One, Ben was quick to point out the differences between the two divisions. “The jump from League One to the Championship is huge,” he said. “Every team has quality players all over and you really need to concentrate for the full ninety minutes.” Having successfully established himself at this level, he is now hoping that regular game-time at Fulham will serve to improve his performance.
We quickly moved on to discuss the earlier years of Ben’s playing career, with particular interest towards the time he spent outside the football league. Between 2007 and 2009, the Geordie spent the opening stages of his time as a senior player between the non-league Northern divisions, with spells at Newcastle Blue Star, Morpeth and then Ilkeston Town.
Despite asserting that his spell outside the football league provided little values in terms of his footballing development, Ben appreciates the contribution this experience had on a more personal level. “I don’t think it assisted with my development, as anybody at those levels will tell you, the games are very physical. I think it just made me grow up a bit and realise I’m not playing against youth team players anymore.”
“It’s a tough experience, but one I really enjoyed,” he added. “Especially now as I am lucky enough to be at the club I am. I would definitely advise the young pros at Premier League clubs to drop down, perhaps not to that kind of level, but certainly League Two/League One standard, as that experience in two proper leagues is invaluable.”
We also touched upon his time at Wallsend Boys Club – an organisation renowned for the footballing stars it has produced. With the likes of Premier League record top scorer Alan Shearer, and current top flight pros Michael Carrick and Fraser Forster, all graduating from the North Tyneside outfit, we asked Ben if he had felt a greater sense of expectation, even at youth level.
“To be honest, when I was that young I didn’t really pay much attention to the players that had come through before me,” he explained. “As a young lad you just want that first break through with a professional team (Ben’s first shot at this would be with West Bromwich Albion) and even then you never know how long it is going to last.”
Contrary to what one may expect, Ben said that he failed to notice any differences at Wallsend during his time spent as a youngster, although he now appreciates the calibre and prestige of the club. “Being in the position that I am in now, I feel very honoured to have come through the Boys Club and be mentioned alongside some of the great players,” he said.
“At the time I didn’t notice anything different,” he continued. “Newcastle is a city which at young ages produces good footballers. Wallsend Boys Club was brilliant because it gives those talented youngsters a chance.”
To end our chat in the most light hearted manner possible, we asked Ben to give us his ideal five-team (including a manager), consisting of the best players he had ever featured alongside – a side that is perhaps unsurprisingly dominated by Rotherham United, both past and present.
Adam Collin (Rotherham United) – “After saving two penalties at Wembley, and being unbelievable in the League One campaign, he would be my goalkeeper.”
Craig Morgan (Wigan Athletic – formerly Rotherham United) – “He was solid in League Two and League One, and improved against massively in the Championship. A tough opponent to play against.”
Kris Commons (Celtic – formerly Derby County) – “Technically unbelievable and always makes something happen.”
Lee Frecklington (Rotherham United) – “Also full of energy – gives 100% every game and training session. Never lets you down.”
Tom Hitchcock (MK Dons – formerly Rotherham United) – “Scored a twenty minute hat-trick away at Gillingham in League One – one of the best I have ever seen. He is also one of my best mates, so he would be upfront.”
Ben also reserved special praise for former Derby manager Nigel Clough – who he selected as manager: “I would not be in the great position that I am today without Nigel changing my life and giving me the opportunity at Derby. To sign a young lad from eight divisions below was a big risk for him and for that I am grateful.”
The perfect way to end a thoroughly enjoyable interview. The Boot Room would like to say a huge thanks to Ben for being such a good sport, and we wish you all the best for a successful career with Fulham.[separator type=”thin”]
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Steph Houghton on leading, going unbeaten with Manchester City and FA developments
Manchester City and England captain Steph Houghton has grown into her leadership role for both club and country. We caught up with the 29-year-old as she chases a fourth FA Women’s Super League career title…
Captain of club and country. Not many players can claim to have achieved that feat during their careers.
For Manchester City Women’s Football Club defender Steph Houghton this was a dream realised at just 25 years of age, when then-head coach Mark Sampson handed her the England Women’s National Team armband on a full-time basis.
“I have had to work hard to become the leader that I am”, she told The Boot Room, in an exclusive interview. “I was quite a young captain getting the armband for both City and England at the same time. In this environment, I feel like I’ve been able to be myself and really grow as a leader.
“There is more responsibility in terms of ensuring everyone is maintaining high standards and sometimes that can be challenging, but ultimately it’s the proudest honour you could have in the game to captain both Manchester City and England.”
Leadership may not have come naturally to the now-29-year-old but, with over 200 clubs appearances and 100 international caps to her name, it is a trait she has acquired through gaining experience and realising new levels of achievement outside of her comfort zone.
This success has seen Houghton discover unchartered territory with England and Manchester City, leading the Lionesses to a third-place finish in the 2014 World Cup finals and the Blues to the club’s first ever Women’s Super League (WSL) title in 2016/17.
The Lionesses, who have become the pride of the nation, came agonisingly close to the World Cup final in Canada, with only a devastating injury-time own goal preventing them from a shot at the most prestigious prize in the women’s game.
Aside from the exemplary team spirit that the squad possesses, Houghton believes that the improved level of England performances over the years comes down to a tactical awareness that has set them aside from their opponents.
“Over the last four years, we’ve been adaptable in the way we play. We are very competitive. We want to win and we’ve found ways to win.
“When I think back to the World Cup in 2015, we played so many different formations that teams didn’t know what we were doing. That is a credit to the coaching staff and all the players who adapted to those different scenarios to outwit an opponent and most importantly win.”
After reaching a landmark 100 appearances for the Lionesses, Houghton celebrated a City milestone earlier this season, marking her club century against former club Sunderland Ladies.
Her 100th game came with a 3-0 triumph against her hometown side, with whom she spent five years at the beginning of her career before enjoying spells with Leeds United and Arsenal Ladies.
Houghton led Arsenal to an FA Cup and Continental Cup double in 2013 and was twice a Women’s Super League winner with the Gunners prior to joining Manchester City in 2014.
“I loved my time at Arsenal, it was a fantastic club and still is, but on a personal level, I wasn’t flourishing as much as I wanted to,” she said.
“Then Manchester City came in, a brand new team that was giving me the chance to play full time, compete in a fantastic stadium and also be closer to home. It really wasn’t an opportunity I could turn down.
The first few months were difficult, but I think in your career you have to go through those moments to come out even better.
“I know I made the right decision and I’m as happy as I could ever be here at City.”
Since making the move from London to Manchester in 2014, the Lionesses’ skipper has earned a number of titles and accolades, not least of which being awarded an MBE in recognition for her personal achievements and contributions to the game.
The Blues skipper is a respected figure both on and off the pitch and has become a huge inspiration to sportswomen everywhere.
Undoubtedly, reaching 100 games with City was a hugely proud moment for the 29-year-old, who has experienced a number of incredible moments throughout her time with the Manchester outfit.
However, she says the club’s domestic success throughout the 2016/2017 campaign remains the personal highlight among all her achievements.
“It was a massive honour and I never thought when I joined the club that I’d be able to play 100 games, but I was fortunate enough to be able to do so.
“There have been some amazing memories, our first Continental Cup final win, we were the underdogs and the feeling that night was unbelievable.
“But, I think winning the double in 2016 and then the FA Cup in 2017, capturing all three domestic trophies, has to up there because of the way we played.
“We went unbeaten and we only conceded four goals and that was a credit to every player and all the staff.”
Already holders of the WSL title and Continental Tyres (League) Cup, after a season without losing during 2016/17, the Blues claimed the full set with an FA Cup final victory over Birmingham City Ladies in May 2017.
For Manchester City Women’s this marked quite an achievement, having turned fully professional only three years earlier – on the back of the creation of the WSL.
After going full-time, City set about the same dominance their men’s side had enjoyed in the transfer market and the league, the outcome of which saw Houghton appear on the club’s radar, with manager Nick Cushing keen to add strong leaders to his ranks.
Houghton credits Cushing, who was named the club’s full-time head coach just a month before she signed for the Etihad outfit, for the significant role he has played in her development, both as a player and a person.
“He is the best coach I’ve ever played under and for me, and for the rest of the players, he’s really developed us into a team that knows a lot more about the game and are much more tactically aware.
“On a personal level, he has helped my game so much over the last four years. We work every day on the finer details, it’s about being good with the ball and without it.
“I owe a lot to him over the last four years, not only on the coaching side but also managing me as a person, really allowing me to be myself and develop as a leader.”
Cushing’s City side remain in an excellent position to challenge for a second league championship this term, just one point behind current leaders Chelsea Ladies, last season’s runners-up, after 11 games.
Success in the Women’s Super League would have been the main target for the Blues prior to the season, defending the title they worked tirelessly to claim last term. However, the quadruple remains a possibility, with the club still competing on all fronts.
“As a club, we are so far meeting all the objectives we set at the beginning of the season.”
“We’re still competing in the Champions League with the quarterfinals coming up in March. We’re still in the FA Cup and have the Continental Cup final to look forward to, and we’re also challenging for the Women’s Super League.
“Ultimately, we want to keep winning football games and competing in all competitions, so we’re really happy with how the season is going.”
The fabric of a title-winning team comes in its ability to become resolute when the going gets tough and that is exactly what Manchester City showed in their last WSL fixture, against the league leaders.
City’s league hopes looked to be in a perilous position at half-time of their pivotal top-of-the-table clash against the Blues, with the Manchester outfit trailing 2-0 at the break, courtesy of strikes from Millie Bright and Ji So-Yun.
Nonetheless, an excellent second half City performance ensured the points were shared at the Academy Stadium, with goals from Nikita Parris and Georgia Stanway pegging back Chelsea’s first-half advantage.
Defeat would have been a devastating three points lost in the race for the title and, therefore, the eventual draw will be considered a valuable point gained. This game-by-game approach is one that Houghton knows will serve the club well during the run-in.
“This season, we need to take each game as it comes, we know it’s possible and we should be proud of what we’ve achieved, but we’ve still got a long way to go so we’ve got to remain focused if we’re going to achieve success.”
On the continent, City remain unbeaten in the Champions League and will play Swedish champions Linkopings in the quarter-finals in March after reaching the semi-finals of the competition last season.
Houghton and co. were knocked out of Europe by Lyon in 2016/17, and could face the four-time Women’s Champions League winners in the last four if both sides progress from the current round.
“We’ve got to believe. I think we performed well in the Champions League in our debut season, to make it to the semi-finals was an achievement, but we want to build on that.”
Away from the pitch, Houghton acts as an Ambassador for UEFA – a women’s football development role – the purpose of which is to provide models to young females wishing to participate in the sport.
As a leading English female footballer, the City captain holds a strong commitment to accelerating the progress of the women’s game – an objective that has been catalysed by the establishment of the FA WSL in 2010.
Finally committed to developing women’s football, the FA believed creating a viable elite league, which would initially be semi-professional, was to prove vital for the sport’s credibility. This was a decision backed by Houghton.
“The best idea we had was to introduce the FA WSL and having it as a summer league at first allowed clubs to focus on making their teams full time, providing more coaching hours for their players and ultimately drawing in as many crowds as possible, as well as allowing for more tv coverage.”
Initially running over the summer, in July 2016 it was agreed that a calendar shift would take place. This moved the WSL to the winter months, to be played between September and May, in line with other divisions across Europe.
In September 2017 it was announced that the top tier of English women’s football will be only for full-time clubs from 2018-19 after proposed changes to Women’s Super League licences were approved by the FA.
This means that all clubs must re-apply for their places in the division, while new teams could earn licences to join the top tier that will have between eight and 14 teams. In addition, top-flight clubs will be required to run an academy under the new criteria.
This is a significant milestone in the progression of the women’s game and is likely to transform key elements, including the quality of resources and the level of performance on the pitch. Houghton explained the positive impact of such a decision.
“I think it’s the right step now, after making it a winter league, to continue this growth and increase our competitiveness on the international stage.
“There are a lot of big clubs pushing to make it more professional and from an international perspective, that is what you want, everyone training full-time and to be as fit as they possibly can be.
As a club, I think Manchester City have set the standards in terms of the professionalism and ensuring we have access to the same resources as the men’s team, both on and off the pitch.”
A leading figure in the English game, both on the pitch for Manchester City and the Three Lionesses, and as an ambassador for UEFA, Houghton recognises the progress of the women’s game. However, she says there still remains room for improvement.
“I’m happy with how far the game has come.
“To be able to live my dream of being a professional football player and to be at a club like this is unbelievable and I think the games are now more competitive than they ever were, which makes it all that much better.
“The stadium we play in, the pitches we train on, the crowds that we draw in are incredible too, it’s really grown. It’s important that we keep pushing in all those areas.
“You’d like to see regular TV matches every week, which we’re starting to do. I’m optimistic about what the future holds.”
Decisions made regarding the development of the women’s game may largely sit outside of her influence, but on the pitch, Houghton will be hoping to galvanise City’s pursuit of Chelsea at the top of the WSL, while next year’s World Cup in France will be at the forefront of preparations with the Three Lionesses.
Aston Villa’s Albert Adomah on discovering a scoring streak, promotion hopes and his journey to the top
With 13 Sky Bet Championship goals, Albert Adomah is proving to be the catalyst in Aston Villa’s search for promotion. We catch up with the 30-year-old to discuss the season to date..
Few players have come further in football than Aston Villa’s Albert Adomah.
Whilst many of his Villa team-mates came through the ranks training at the world class facilities of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City, his footballing career began at amateur side Old Meadonians.
Whilst studying to become a painter and decorator, his career took off as he moved to join seventh tier club Harrow Borough.
14 goals in 69 games for the London club caught the eye of a host of local non-league and lower league clubs.
Barnet was his eventual destination in January 2008.
Ten years later, and after spells at Bristol City and Middlesbrough, Adomah is taking the Sky Bet Championship by storm.
Discussing his journey to the top with The Boot Room, he revealed that he’s achieved more than he could ever have hoped for as an 18-year-old student playing amateur football at the weekend.
“When I first joined Harrow Borough I had a feeling I would progress to the next level with a hope to one day play at the highest – which is the Premier League and international football and I’ve managed to achieve both of those.
“I wanted to work my way up and I’ve managed to achieve that.”
After play-off heartbreak with Middlesbrough in 2015, Adomah was key to earning his side promotion to the top flight, missing only ten league games across three seasons at the Riverside club.
The winger made his Premier League debut in a draw against Stoke on the opening day of the 2016/17 season under Aitor Karanka, but little did he know that his substitute appearance the following week would be his last for the club.
Summer reinforcements to strengthen the squad to first division quality, after Adomah had helped to get the club left there, and a reported fall out with boss Karanka, left him surplus to requirements.
The now 30-year-old says that he was left with no choice but to leave Tyneside.
“It was time to move on and Aston Villa is a big club with great fans and a lot of history, it felt like a huge opportunity for me.”
By moving to Villa Park, he ensured that he was moving to one of the biggest clubs, if not the biggest, in the English Football League.
Boasting some of the highest attendances in the country, even despite relegation in 2016, there is no denying that the sway of the club has an impact on its players.
“It’s a massive club so when you go out onto the pitch you want to perform well and do well for the club and the main objective of the day is to get the points.”
After years of underperformance, the 2017/18 season finally looks to be putting Aston Villa back on the map with a mid-season revival seeing Steve Bruce’s side climb the table and enter contention for promotion.
For Adomah too, it has been a remarkable season.
“So far on a personal level I think I’ve been doing really well, scoring goals and as a team we have been doing great.
“The result at the weekend didn’t go our way but all we can do is learn from it, work harder and aim to put that right.”
By averaging almost a goal every other game, with 14 from 29 in all competitions, to date, he has already far surpassed his personal best of 12 goals in 42 games with Middlesbrough in 2013/14.
Cutting in from out wide, his positioning, pace, power and smart finishing has been crucial to his team’s success, leading the club’s goalscoring charts, ahead of the likes of multi-million pound centre forwards Scott Hogan and Jonathan Kodjia.
His goals and assists have contributed a huge 18 points to Villa’s fight to return to the top flight, and he is not ready to take the foot off the gas just yet.
Despite now being deployed out wide, Adomah feels that his past experience through the middle has been pivotal to his success.
“I used to be a striker so when I’m in that position I always have a good feeling I’ll get a chance to score – it’s all about hitting the target.
“Lately whenever I shoot it seems to go in.”
Boss Steve Bruce has even called upon the number 37 to beat the Championship record of goals from a player who isn’t a striker, a record currently set at 20 by then-Cardiff ace Peter Whittingham.
With the business end of the season still to come, that certainly looks achievable, but Adomah is taking his campaign one step at a time.
“Every season my target is 10 goals and 10 assists and so far I have exceeded one of my targets, my next aim would be 15 goals and if I can do that I’ll aim for 20 goals but I try not to put pressure on myself.”
It has been some turnaround for Adomah too, considering that he started only one of Villa’s first six games in 2017/18.
The signing of Bruce favourite Ahmed Elmohamady and loan deals for West Ham flop Robert Snodgrass and Tottenham starlet Josh Onomah upped the pressure on an already crowded area of the squad, with the likes of Andre Green and Jack Grealish getting better and better.
Having celebrated his 30th birthday this season, it would be logical that Adomah would be the player to make way. Instead, he has taken a step up.
Age is just a number to one of Villa’s more experienced professionals, who insists that it is hard work on the training ground that is seeing him improve as he matures into the twilight years of his career.
“I work hard at the training ground to improve myself and on the pitch you try to avoid making mistakes but if they do happen you look to the next game to put it right and learn from it.”
Bruce has, understandably, spoken of the importance of keeping players like Adomah, who he has described as “a catalyst”, at the club if they are to be taken seriously in their quest to return to their rightful place in the Premier League.
Promotion put an end to Adomah’s time at Middlesbrough, but he insists that he is happy at Villa and wants to commit his long term future to the club.
“If a 10 year contract was put on the table I would sign that today.
“I’m loving my time at Villa, it’s going really well and things are going well for the team.
“My family love living in the Midlands so if I was offered a contract I would sign it.”
Having only played for four clubs since going professional, having played over 100 games for all four, he is a loyal man, and he is ready to reap the rewards of that loyalty in Birmingham.
“Yes staying at one club definitely helps, I think it helps in the long run and it’s good for your family life.
“For me as an individual, I have a family so it’s good to have them settled in one place.”
His goal in the derby in February, a moment he says he will tell his grandchildren about, endeared him even more to the fans at Villa Park.
The club’s rise up the table is not yet complete, though, and Adomah is insistent that his side must have their sights set high for the remaining three months of the season.
The team are leading the chasing pack behind Wolves and their nearest competitors, Cardiff, but Adomah believes that he and his team-mates must be ready to pounce if either side slips up.
“We just need to keep on doing well and chase Wolves as they are doing great.
“If we chase Wolves we will have a great chance of automatic promotion and if Wolves slip up perhaps we could win the league… But everything is down to our performances.”
With that success, Adomah could return to one of his greatest achievements: playing Premier League football.
Capped 15 times by Ghana, scoring two goals, he also fulfilled the other dream by appearing for his nation, Ghana.
Making his debut in 2011 under Goran Stevanovic, he became a regular under Kwesi Appiah, featuring in all but one game as the Black Eagles finished fourth in the African Cup of Nations in 2013.
Adomah even fulfilled a dream that seemed so impossible on the parks of south London only six years previously by taking to the pitch in the 2014 World Cup as a substitute as Ghana were beaten by the USA.
The versatile wideman has only made one appearance since, scoring in a friendly under Avram Grant in 2015, but with Appiah now back at the helm and Adomah in the form of his life, it would be premature to rule out a return to the international scene.
“It was a great achievement to go away with my national team and play on the biggest stage in the world. I managed to play 15 minutes against America but unfortunately we lost that game but it’s wonderful to say I was part of the World Cup.
“Hopefully if they call me again I can do a duty for them, I will continue to play well for my club and hope that I get a call.”
Adomah’s story is one of football’s most inspiring, and earning promotion to the Premier League with one of England’s biggest clubs as the leading man would be a fitting chapter to add to an already incredible tale.
Greg Docherty – Realising a childhood dream with Rangers FC
After completing his dream move to Rangers, midfielder Greg Docherty sat down with The Boot Room to look back at his career to date and the excitement of his time ahead at Ibrox.
Last Saturday, Greg Docherty fulfilled a childhood dream by stepping out at Ibrox.
But this time, unlike his four previous visits to the home of Rangers Football Club, he was stepping out of the tunnel and onto the pitch as a home player following his January switch over to Glasgow.
Docherty’s home debut might not have gone exactly to plan – with Rangers falling to a narrow loss against Hibernian – but nevertheless, it was an afternoon that he is unlikely to forget anytime soon.
His move from Hamilton Academical, a Scottish Premiership side where he had plied his trade since joining their youth academy as nothing more than a nine-year-old with dreams, was perhaps as anticipated as it was justified considering his head-turning performances during the past 18 months.
For lifelong Rangers supporter Docherty it’s been a whirlwind start to 2018, and talking to The Boot Room in an exclusive interview he recounted the moment he discovered the transfer was in motion.
“Believe it or not I was actually on my way to the Hamilton game against Hearts [on January 24] and I received a phone call to say that the deal had been done and that I was now a Rangers player.
“It was all a bit mad. I still wasn’t sure if I was going to be playing that night but after the phone call I quickly had a chat with […] who said obviously you won’t play because we’ve signed all of the forms, and it’s up to Rangers now to do their stuff.”
The confirmation of a completed deal before the end of the transfer window would have come almost as a relief for the 21-year-old, who admitted that he first heard of Rangers’ interest courtesy of speculation across social media platforms.
“To be honest that’s where you first find out most of it, because social media is so popular these days for breaking news. You hear something then ask around a bit to see if it’s true or not but it’s quite funny how you read news about yourself.”
Fortunately for Docherty this proved to be one social media rumour that came to fruition, and little more than three days after being officially announced as a Rangers player he was taking his place in caretaker manager Graeme Murty’s squad, coming off the bench in the 74th minute in a 2-1 win at Ross County.
A winning start in a Gers shirt was undeniably the perfect way for Docherty to settle any lingering nerves following his well-documented winter transfer, and reflecting on his debut he praised the supporters who immediately back him that night.
“It was special. The reaction I got from the crowd was great – it was an incredible following considering the distance from Glasgow – and even when I was warming up the whole stand and a half that Rangers had been allocated were clapping and saying my name.
“It’s something I have dreamt of for a long time and for that to actually happen was incredible.”
But when one door opens, another one has to close, and Docherty’s move to Rangers signalled the end of his 14-year spell at Hamilton.
The Scotland Under-21 international spent the young days of his career working through the ranks at Hamilton’s esteemed academy – an academy that has seen the likes of James McCarthy and James McArthur graduate and switch to the Premier League – before making his first-team bow at just 17.
After getting a feel for first-team football in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, Docherty fully broke into the Hamilton side a year later and it’s fair to say that, from that moment, he never looked back.
He became a stalwart in the Accies’ midfield, going on to make over 100 appearances for them across all competitions, and he insisted that his decision to leave the Club was one that was ultimately made with a heavy heart.
“[I’ll miss] the people. I made a lot of close friends – some of my best friends are still there – and I’ll miss seeing them every day. It was a great place to be, a great place to work, and a great place to play football.
It was a joy for me, it was never a chore or anything like that, and I enjoyed every minute. It gave me a chance. I’ll just miss being in and around the dressing room, because it was a great dressing room, but it was time to move on and push on to the next challenge.”
There’s little doubt that Docherty will always be held in high regard by the home supporters for his efforts during his tenure at the Club, not least for his crucial goal that helped Hamilton edge past Dundee United in the two-legged Scottish Premiership relegation play-off in 2017.
It’s a moment that Docherty himself looks back on with fond memories, too.
“Scoring the goal to keep them in the league, that was it for me.
“Hamilton had shown a lot of faith in me through the years so for me to repay them with that goal to keep them in the league, that was special. Football’s funny sometimes with how it works and for me to score the goal after coming through the youth system was nice for Hamilton.”
It won’t be long before he’s back in familiar territory though, as Docherty and Rangers travel to New Douglas Park on February 18 in a match that’ll be rife with emotion for the academy product.
Football is often known to be an ironic sport at times, and there’s a certain amount of irony about the fact that the youngster from Milngavie all-but sealed the deal when playing against Rangers for Hamilton earlier in the Premiership season.
It was in Hamilton’s 2-0 win at Ibrox back in November – a match that gave the Accies their first victory at Rangers since 1926 – where the youngster excelled, earning an assist and generally catching the eye with a powerful midfield display, and it’s this that could have swayed the board of directors at Rangers into signing on the dotted line.
“In a way I hope so. I wanted to play well because it was against the team I support – it’s funny like that – but I wanted to prove that if I was to play for Rangers then I’d be more then capable.
“After that game I received a lot of nice messages from the fans congratulating me so I knew right away that they had taken to me a little bit. Then once the news came in that Rangers were interested in me the amount of support I received was incredible, and that was another factor in me signing.”
For now, though, Docherty’s time at New Douglas Park is a chapter of the past, and his firm focus remains on pastures new at Rangers – and more predominantly, getting them back to the very top.
Their return to the summit of Scottish football last season after four years of climbing back up the ladder has seen the club back where it belongs, and considering the plight that they have been recovering from since entering into administration in 2012, a third-place finish was an impressive feat on their return to Premiership football last season.
And whilst it seems that Celtic are once again set to reign supreme come the end of the 2017-18 campaign, Docherty is confident that Rangers will be right back on their heels again before too long.
At just 21 years of age Docherty has arguably already reached the pinnacle of the Scottish game by virtue of playing for one of the two notorious Glaswegian giants, and he admitted that he could already see himself spending the majority of his footballing career at Ibrox, aiding the club’s revival.
“You never know. If that was to be the case then I wouldn’t be disheartened by that at all.
“Rangers need to get back to the top, and one of my aims is to get them back there and competing at the highest level – and I’m sure the Rangers fans do too. There’s every chance of that happening over the next few years, I don’t see why not, you’ve just got to believe.
“If I was to stay here for the rest of my career then that would be brilliant but you never know in football and you want to play at the highest level possible.”
After achieving his dream move by the time he even turns 22 it’s clear to see that there’s a long and successful career there for the taking should Docherty avoid serious injury, and there is already growing talks that he could be in contention for a berth in the Scotland squad as the year progresses.
It is a testing time for the Scotland national squad at present, currently without a manager and with friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary looming in March, but with three Under-21 caps to his name – and with a big move under his belt – Docherty is well-placed to push for a first senior call-up.
Asked about his national team aspirations, Docherty replied:
“Absolutely, I don’t see why not.
“Obviously I’ll take each game as they come but I think that if I start off playing well for Rangers I can’t see why I can’t push into the international team. I’ve already completed one of my targets to get signed by Rangers – but first and foremost I need to establish myself in the Rangers team.”
And this could begin with a first start in a Rangers jersey when they travel to Scottish League One outfit Ayr United in the fifth-round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday, with a quarter-final spot at stake.
It would be a full debut that would no doubt be received well by Rangers fans if social media talk is anything to go by, with Gers supporters urging their new signing to be given the chance to impress in midfield.
If anything, that shows just how highly-rated Docherty is – he’s something of a hot commodity right now.
But he insisted that he’s aware of the competition for places and strength in depth at Ibrox, adding that he feels he is at the right club in order to develop as a young footballer.
“I feel like I need to score more goals, and I need to contribute more. I need to be a more all-round box-to-box midfielder. I think I’ve got the fitness and the strength to do it but I just need to be a bit more aware when I’m on the ball and speed up the play.
“I think that’ll come at Rangers though and I think that’s something they are good at – they’re a very fast-flowing team – and that’s why I’m excited to be playing with them and see what it’s like to play in a game with such high intensity.
“It’s always been difficult to play against Rangers. The movement is always good and they’re always very switched on with what they do – that was another factor in joining, as I wanted to be a part of that. They’re a great side that are building momentum at the moment.”
It is this concept of building momentum that couldn’t be truer on the blue side of Glasgow at this moment in time, with their current position a far cry from the desperate predicament of late 2012.
With Docherty and fellow midfielder Sean Goss arriving in January there’s real potential for a partnership to be grown – one that could be the backbone of this Rangers side for years to come.
The signs are good for the Gers as they strive to compete for a 54th league title, combining energy and youth with some seasoned heads that lends itself to some pleasing football.
As for the immediate future, it may just take another few games for the enormity of the move to fully sink in for boyhood fan Docherty, but it is a scenario that just goes to prove the old-school cliché that dreams can be achieved if you are prepared to work hard enough for them.
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