For any young player, the chance to move to England and chase a professional footballing career would be a dream come true.
One need only look at the new English Premier League television rights deal to see the extent to which English Football has become a powerhouse.
So, when defender Luke Adams was called to try out for Derby County in England’s second tier, he jumped at the chance to prove himself.
However, the Kiwi Youth International’s ambitions of one day playing in the English top flight quickly turned sour.
“It was only two days into my first trial over there and I did my ACL,” Adams tells smfc.com.au.
Any 18-year-old who succumbs to an injury of this severity during the biggest opportunity of their life has the potential to break down mentally. Adams, however, was only made stronger by this setback.
“To have gone through something like that at such a young age was massive for my mental toughness,” he says.
“You’ve got boys like KK (Kristian Konstantinidis), Eagar, Schroen and others at South Melbourne who have done it recently so it’s one of those things that you learn how to handle and get over it and you’re better for it in the long run.”
Despite the injury, Derby offered to keep Adams. At a crossroads, Adams was faced with the choice of leaving and completing his rehabilitation on his own, or staying and recovering overseas.
Ultimately, he decided to sign with the English side.
“It was a big decision for me to stay but I’m glad I did because there’s no way I’d be back to where I am now if I had have left,” Adams says.
“You know how it is you when you are young. I probably would have come back to my mates and not been as diligent with my recovery as I was over there.”
After a stint in the A-League at Wellington Phoenix – in which he made three senior appearances – and a brief period at Waitakere United, Adams joined South Melbourne for the 2015 NPL Victoria season.
Today, as a stalwart in South Melbourne’s central defence, Adams has rediscovered his top form.
In 2015 he played a total of 21 games and contributed to a defence which conceded only 22 goals in 26 games and ultimately won the premiership on goal difference.
Pivotal to South Melbourne’s success last year was the solid centre-half partnership that Adams had formed with Captain and fellow countryman Michael Eagar. The defensive duo form South’s ‘Kiwi Konnection’.
“It’s funny I didn’t really know Eagar before I came to South Melbourne. I knew of him and had had a few chats with him but had never played with him,” Adams says.
“It’s been awesome partnering him down back. We’re always communicating and we’re actually pretty similar defenders so it makes things so much easier.”
Interestingly, Adams has not been a defender for his entire career. For his first ever club, Fencibles United, he played as a striker but was moved into defence at the age of 12. In a way, this has helped him with his defensive responsibilities.
“Having played up front it helps a lot with defending for sure. You know the runs strikers make because you used to make those runs yourself,” he says.
“It also helps with your ball control at a young age. As a striker you get a better understanding and more time on the ball as opposed to being an out-and-out centre back.”
At only 21-years-old, Adams strongly believes that there is still growth to be made in his game. He maintains high hopes of redeeming the misfortune that struck him down during his previous attempt at playing professionally.
“It’s all about consistency for me at the moment. I think it comes with team consistency because if the team is playing well then it sort of means I’m also playing well,” Adams says.
“I’m looking to go pro again if I can, so I’m hoping to really develop and push on this year and who knows what opportunities could be ahead.”
With aspirations of one day returning to professional football put to one side, Adams has his sights firmly set on a stellar 2016 season with South Melbourne. And, if statistics are anything to go by, he is off to a great start.
After three rounds of the 2016 NPL Victoria season, Adams has already contributed to a defensive unit which is yet to concede a goal and sits undefeated on top of the table. Adams also managed to open his goal scoring account with a strike against Port Melbourne in South’s 2-0 round three victory at SS Anderson Reserve.