Pilot Field Buzzes for Adams

By Nick Pelling 

A huge snaking crowd of cheerful Hastings United supporters made their way to Pilot Field to pay tribute to their club captain, Sam Adams, on his testimonial evening on 27th July. It was, as the United Independent Supporters Club put it, “an amazing night for an amazing servant of the club”. Impressively, the Hastings club had managed to persuade Tottenham Hotspur to send their Under-23 side, which, for aficionados of the beautiful game, added a frisson of footballing expectation to the warm summer night. The fact that Adams – who has now played an extraordinary 570 games for the club – is a passionate fan of Spurs surely gave this game an extra emotional potency.

CREDIT: Ben Cornwell

Adams, 34, first came to the club at the age of 18 and became top scorer in his first season. He has scored 143 goals which, for an attacking midfielder, is an excellent strike rate. He was a key part of the promotion-winning side of 2007 and, were it not for the pandemic, he would surely have achieved further promotion last year. United fans certainly have high expectations for the coming season: as co-owner of the club Daren Burney says, “I hope, come April next year, Sam will be able to lift the League trophy.” It would be a great finale to a cracking career.  

Coach Chris Agutter has in many ways built his team around Adams. He commented that, from his very first coaching session at the club, he decided to give Adams the captain’s armband. He is, in Agutter’s words, a “natural leader of men, on and off the pitch”. Appropriately, Adams was given a guard of honour by both teams when he came onto the pitch.

The game itself was more of a celebration than a full-blooded contest (despite what used to be called ‘tasty’ tackles as the game wore on) between the nimble-footed Spurs youngsters and the battling men of Hastings. There were some fine performances from Hastings: goalkeeper Louis Rogers made several important saves, and left back Ollie Black was tenacious to the last, deploying his customary weapon, a probing throw-in almost as threatening as a corner kick. Adams himself seemed to be playing as a slightly isolated front-man but, typically, his commitment was unflinching. Defensively Hastings kept Spurs down to only one goal in the second half, which was a great achievement given the fizzing fluidity of the lads on the brink of the Premiership. The overall 3-0 defeat was about fair, but United left the pitch to applause all around the ground. The Lilywhites were similarly applauded and, in true sporting fashion, the lean proto-stars clapped and seemed appreciative of the lively Hastings crowd numbering in excess of 1400. 

CREDIT: Ben Cornwell

The Supporters Club was able to present Adams with a splendid trophy and gift after the game, made possible by donations from its members. His family – including his older brother who came on in the second half – must have felt that the club was, for one night at least, a vast, happy extended family.

Club CEO Billy Wood summed up much of what has been said about Adams recently. “The word legend gets used way too much but when it comes to Sam, that is the ideal fit.” It should be added that Wood was to be found on a turnstile on the night, giving real meaning to his notion of hands-on leadership. He and the whole club deserve great credit for organising such a prestigious event. 

Adams, for his part, has tended to let the football do the talking. But it seems only fitting to leave the last word to Sam: “I love this club and am proud to represent my home town.” The whole crowd, from straggles of kids in replica shirts to gnarled old-timers, showed that the affection and appreciation flow both ways. 

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