CHE ADAMS was named after a notorious fighter — and has himself had to battle for Premier League fame after multiple snubs by FA Cup semi-final opponents Leicester.
The Southampton striker, who owes his name to Cuba Revolution leader Che Guevara, was born in the East Midlands city and still considers the Foxes as his second team.
That is despite being rejected on FIVE occasions by his hometown club after trials, starting at Under-eight level and continuing all the way up to Under-16s.
None of those knockbacks were as hurtful as his release from Coventry at 14 after seven years.
But they all played a significant part in the 24-year-old’s story of scrapping his way to the top, in a manner very similar to that of Jamie Vardy.
Adams, who faces Vardy & Co at Wembley on Sunday evening, said: “They made me want to play football and fall in love with the game.
“For some kids, it breaks their hearts and they don’t want to play football again. But, for me, that built me into the person I am because of the determination and how hard-working I can be.”
Adams was given his eye-catching forename as Guevara was in the news at the time of his birth and his mum Frances just “really liked the name”.
He is regularly sent memes on social media of his face superimposed on the famous Guevara T-shirt by fans and admits he would love to go to Cuba one day.
Growing up in Leicester estate Thurnby Lodge, Adams followed Emile Heskey’s path by turning out for local side Highfield Rangers, before joining the Sky Blues at seven.
But after being let go he was forced to turn to non-league, first with Oadby Town and then Ilkeston, while simultaneously studying for a BTec in sports studies.
I grew up in Leicester, that’s where my family is from. When they won the league, the city was on a different planet with everyone supporting.
The FA Cup may not hold the same sway it once did but Adams certainly appreciated how it gave him a platform to impress when playing against opposition further up the pyramid.
He still remembers playing in Ilkeston’s 1-0 win over Solihull Moors in September 2014 which helped boost his reputation.
Soon the scouts were flooding into the Robins’ New Manor Ground to watch him and two months later Nigel Clough’s Sheffield United, then in League One, took the plunge.
A £2million move to Birmingham followed two years later before he finally made it to the Premier League with Saints two summers ago.
Reaching the top perhaps makes it easier to continue to have a soft spot for Leicester — rather than resenting them after all the rejections.
Adams, whose first name is pronounced “Shay”, said: “It was Arsenal I supported as a young boy. Thierry Henry was the person I loved.
“But I grew up in Leicester, that’s where my family is from and where I was born. When they won the league, the city was on a different planet with everyone supporting.
“It’s been great for the city and I’m glad they’re doing well.
“Playing against Leicester gives that extra little feeling against the team where I grew up.”
Adams not only takes on his boyhood side as a Premier League player but as an international after making his Scotland debut last month.
He qualified through his grandmother and felt it was the right time to switch allegiances, having rejected an approach from Alex McLeish a few years ago.
While his Southampton team-mates have certainly been enjoying his new-found nationality.
The Tartan Army new-boy explained: “They have been calling me different names like McChe and McAdams.
“The kit man even got me a shirt with McAdams on the back and everyone’s asking me if I’ve got a Scottish accent!
“The first chance came a couple of years ago when I was quite young.
“I didn’t want to be committed and tied down to something at a young age.
“But I’m at an age now where I understand football and I’ve been around football for a couple of years now. I know the ins and outs and how everything works.
“I think it came at the right time and it was an easy decision in the end.
My mother is half Scottish, she’s got pride in her and she’s happy for me.
“My grandmother is not with us now but I knew her and my grandad well.
“They are not around anymore, it’s just my mother, she’s half Scottish, she’s got pride in her and she’s happy for me.”
Adams has the prospect of taking on club team-mates James Ward-Prowse and Danny Ings when Scotland play England at the Euros this summer, should they all be selected.
It will be a repeat of the famous group match at Euro 96, when Paul Gascoigne’s unforgettable goal helped seal a 2-0 win for Terry Venables' Three Lions.
Adams was born two weeks after the tournament finished so was not aware of Gazza’s heroics, but promised to look it up shortly after this Zoom interview.
Yet for now, the focus is on a Wembley trip which could end with Southampton’s first FA Cup final for 19 years.
It would also be a chance to save their season after a miserable last few months in the league which has seen them limp to safety after a cracking start to the campaign.
Adams added: “It’s a great opportunity to put our names out there and put the club out there as well.
“We have had a rocky spell and the FA Cup has been a shining light to take our mind off the league and give us something else to think about. It’s very exciting.”
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