Play It Again, Sam
The talents needed to succeed as a footballer are various: ball control, power and accuracy of passing and shooting, aerial ability, courage and tenacity in defending, speed of both thought and action. Sam Adams, now 31, who last month returned to the ranks of Hastings United after a year away playing for Hythe Town, ticks all the above boxes, and has done ever since his first debut for the ‘U’s 13 years ago. But every manager who has written his name on the team sheet – and there have been a large number over the years at Pilot Field – knows first and foremost that what they’ll get from him is 90 minutes of honest endeavour in whatever role he is asked to play: he is the ultimate team player.
I knew Sam when he was a junior footballer in the local leagues for Tackleway and the Rother League. He was quick, lively and skilful then, with good shooting boots, always playing in the right way with a positive and cheerful attitude. At 17 he was playing adult football with Rye United and the following year signed with Hastings. Apart from two seasons away, one back with Rye, then last season at Hythe, he has been ever-present with his home club. Some of the speed may have gone, but the skills and determination are still very much there.
Sam’s performance a fortnight ago in the ‘U’s 1-0 win against Faversham Town was typical. Starting the game up front, he dispossessed a defender in a tackle on the edge of the penalty area, then sidestepped a second defender to wriggle clear and place a cool shot past the keeper for the game’s only goal. In the second half with the visitors pressing for an equaliser he was withdrawn into midfield to stem the tide. Another Saturday, another success for the team as well as for their ebullient striker.
Before the game I caught up with him for a brief question-and-answer interview.
What took you away from Hastings in 2016?
I’ve always played with mates – people I was brought up with – at Hastings and Rye. Then last year, with a new manager coming in and a big shake-out of players, I thought I would try something different, and went to play at Hythe.
And what brought you back this season?
I had a good year at Hythe, scored 17 goals, probably never played better. (And no surprise that, though he is too modest to mention it, he gained their players’ player award for the season). But it was a lot of travelling – most of my work during the week is towards Brighton these days.
What’s been the highlight of your football career?
Getting promotion to the Isthmian Premier Division in 2007 via the play-offs. Actually I didn’t play in the final – I was sent off in the semi-final and suspended. But it was the climax to a great season.
Do you feel you could have played at a higher standard earlier in your career?
Maybe. At various times other clubs have been interested. But I like living in Hastings and playing locally. I have no regrets.
How has the game changed at Hastings in the last eleven years?
Players are fitter now, and the game has got faster. I think there’s also a big difference in how the younger players are treated. When I started the older players would tell you what to do. Nowadays the younger players argue back.
How do you keep yourself fit?
We train twice a week. But I also do quite hard physical work during the week for the Water Board.
Who has been the best manager you’ve played for (present incumbent Chris Agutter excepted)?
I’ve had a lot of good managers at Hastings. Neville Southall made a big impression. And I thought Nigel Kane did very well to get us promoted.
Do your children play football?
My two daughters will come and watch me play, and the younger one kicks a ball in the back garden but, no, they don’t play in a club. I have a young son, he’s only one year old. Maybe in the future he’ll want to play.
Will you stay in football when you’ve stopped playing – as a manager or coach?
No, it’s too much responsibility. I might coach a junior team locally if my boy played in it, that’s about all.