Che Adams interview: Being released by Coventry, thriving with Birmingham and the Second City derby

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It has been a breakout campaign for the 22-year-old in the Sky Bet Championship. His previous best in a campaign had been 11 in League One for Sheffield United in 2015/16, while he had never hit double figures for Birmingham. This season he has 21 and counting.

Safe to say he has come a long way from being released by Coventry in 2010.

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"I can remember the day I got released," he told Sky Sports. "I was about 14 and they just thought I wouldn't develop anymore.

"From there, I dropped down to playing locally because I just wanted to enjoy football again. I wasn't really enjoying it at that age and I just felt like I was missing out on playing with my friends. I went and did that and it helped me fall back in love with the game again."

Adams had been at Coventry since the age of seven and he admits that he had started to find the academy life draining, and that it was tough at the time to see all his friends enjoying doing the things that he was unable to do.

If anything, the drop down to non-league and clubs like Oadby Town and Ilkeston helped fire him up again, not that the desire to be a footballer ever really dwindled.

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Birmingham City's Che Adams celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game
Image: Adams has scored 21 goals for Birmingham so far this season in the Championship

"I think as a kid you just want to enjoy being a kid sometimes, and I felt like I missed out a bit on certain things because everything was just football and training," he said.

"It probably took me until I was about 17 or 18 when I was at Ilkeston to realise that it's a sacrifice that's worth making to get to where I am today. I think that made me who I am, and now I'm reaping the benefits.

"But I always believed I wanted to be in football because it is what I loved and it's all I ever knew. It was the only real option for me."

From non-league via Sheffield United to Birmingham, Adams' form this season saw him linked with a host of Premier League clubs in January, with several offers from Burnley firmly turned down.

A drop in form would be understandable after such interest, but Adams has only got better in the last couple of months, with his six goals in February winning him the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month award. He insists his focus has always been on Birmingham.

"It was all just speculation," he said. "I didn't hear anything myself and I was just concentrating on playing for Birmingham.

"From when the gaffer walked in he wanted everyone to be on the same page and show their commitment. I wanted to be part of that and you can see the benefits of that now with our performances this season."

Birmingham boss Garry Monk 0:44
Garry Monk is anticipating a 'special' occasion when he takes charge of Birmingham City in a home derby against Aston Villa for the first time on Sunday

It is clear that Adams thinks very highly of Garry Monk. The former Swansea, Leeds and Middlesbrough boss took charge at St Andrew's just over a year ago and has galvanised an unbalanced squad that had spent the past couple of seasons fighting off relegation.

After two years in a row of survival on the final day, Birmingham are now within touching distance of the play-offs as we approach the climax of the season.

"From the minute the gaffer walked in, he knew what everyone wanted and how much it means to people here to do well," said Adams. "Everyone is on the same page now and he has pushed us all together. We've got a great team spirit on and off the pitch and we believe in him.

"But it's all come at a price and we've all worked very hard behind the scenes on and off the pitch to make it all happen."

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The next game is a massive one, as Aston Villa visit St Andrew's on Sunday - live on Sky Sports Football. Birmingham lead their fierce rivals by two points in the table and a win for either would go a long way in their bid to reach the play-offs.

For Blues, it would be an even bigger deal because they haven't beaten Villa in nearly a decade in any competition, and since 2005 in the league.

It's the type of occasion Adams loves to be involved in, but insists it is just another potential three points.

"We're just preparing to the same plan like for any other game," he said. "That is always the thinking regardless of who we are playing.

"On the day of the match, you can feel everything is a little bit different in the city. There's a whole different vibe and everyone is buzzing, but a little bit anxious as well. It's a great thing to be involved in.

"They're both big teams going at it to reach the play-offs. It's the Second City derby and it's going to be watched everywhere."

But would he rather score the winner against Villa or at Wembley in May to take Birmingham into the Premier League?

"The play-off final," he says at first, before quickly changing his mind with a smile. "Actually, both. Because why not?"

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