Winger Nicky Adams has been one of the stand-out performers in United’s first three pre-season friendlies with a no-nonsense approach which has caught the eye and produced a host of opportunities as he’s peppered the box from both the left and right flanks.
Typically determined and direct whenever he’s taken to the pitch, we spoke to him on Thursday afternoon to ask if he felt that he was setting an example, particularly to the younger players, on how the return to work should be approached.
“You wouldn’t have thought it by my kit picture!” he said. “I think everybody thought I’d come back looking a bit fat after that appeared.
“In all seriousness I think I’ve said before that you can’t come back to work not having done anything. Everyone else is going to come back really fit because that’s how it has to be. You have to be right up there with them.
“I had a really good break with my family and stuff but it’s been good to be here again, even though the stuff we’re doing has been tough.
“I feel good and with me getting a bit older I suppose some of the young lads might look at me and think it’s the right way to do things. I’m just how I am, I suppose. I’m happy and I’m playing football, so what’s not to enjoy?”
Speaking more about the performances he’s put in out on the pitch, he said: “During the games the gaffer gives me licence to go out and play because he wants me to try to be a playmaker.
“I do what I can to make things happen for the team and he’s shown he has confidence in me to do that. As far as it goes for me I’m about enjoying myself and entertaining people, and if I’m doing well on the pitch then that keeps me happy.
“It feels like I’ve made a decent start to pre-season. Some of it is about getting minutes and sharpening your tools ahead of the season starting and other bits of it are about getting fit. I’m enjoying it all.”
Already notching up the assists, he was picked out by striker Shaun Miller following the Penrith game as one of the main reasons behind why the team has scored a healthy crop of goals so far.
“That’s nice to hear but, to be fair, Shaun’s a great finisher and he’s come back really sharp,” he told us. “He’s lethal when he gets a chance in the box. The good thing for us midfielders is that we’ve got some really good strikers here and they know how I play.
“They also know how the other lads who keep putting balls into the area play, so it’s then up to them to make their runs. Our job is to make sure we put the right kind of ball in there for them.
“Not every ball will get there but if we keep doing it we know that eventually it will end up in the back of the net. We’ve got Shaun to aim for with his movement and Hallam [Hope] with his power and pace. It’s been coming together for us all through the first three games of pre-season and our play has been positive and dynamic.
“A lot of that comes down to the fact we’ve set ourselves really high standards. The gaffer had a meeting with us on the first day and he made it clear what he wants. We went close to achieving it last year and we all want to do better again this year.”
Having missed out narrowly in the play-offs last season there’s no doubt that all eyes will be on the Cumbrians to see how they get on this time round.
“The league will be very tough this year because we’ve seen those teams who have spent big,” he said. “I don’t think we’re as fancied by outsiders as we were last season, but that doesn’t bother us.
“We’ll just quietly go about our business as we always do. I don’t care who I’m playing against so if people don’t fancy us that’s up to them. I think we’ve got more than enough to have a right good go at it.
“We know what we can do and the high standards we’ve been set are something we’ve all bought in to. Pre-season is tough because we need to be at our best for the way we want to play. We want to keep the ball, move it around and play football as much as possible. To do that you have to be as fit as you can be.”
“The fact is, whatever people say about how we’ll get on, there’s some real quality in that dressing room,” he continued. “The players we’ve brought in have added their own attributes and they all look comfortable on the ball. Hallam and Kelvin [Etuhu] are strong lads who give everything and big Jack [Bonham] has been superb with the way he’s handled himself in the games so far.
“I know Tom Parkes really well as well. He was at Leicester with me when we were both young and he’s another who likes to play and step out with the ball. They are four very good signings as far as I’m concerned. The gaffer has made no secret of the fact he wants to strengthen even more so it’s exciting for everyone.”
A big part of United’s success last season was the close-knit dressing room environment and one of the main cogs in that particular wheel revealed that the atmosphere is just as good this time round.
Everyone’s laughing and joking and, like I say, we enjoy our break, but this is what we live for ...
“Everyone’s laughing and joking and, like I say, we enjoy our break, but this is what we live for,” he commented. “When things were tough at times last year I know people started to wonder if something was going on.
“The reality was that we were still positive, we just weren’t getting the results. That can happen to any team at any time.
“The way the dressing room sticks together is one of the good things we’ve got here. That saw us over the line and into the play-offs.
“Quality wise we have more than enough to match anyone in this league and when you add that to a good atmosphere it takes you a long way.”
With just over three weeks of pre-season left to go, we wondered if he’d rather fast forward and get on with the job at hand.
“You know me – let’s not bother with a warm-up, let’s just get out there and play!” he told us. “Swindon are a good side but I know we’ll be ready to go. It’s a great opener and it’s good to be at home for the first day. Bring it on.”
But will he be looking to add more goals to his armoury, having bagged some crackers along the way last season?
“Hopefully, yes,” he said. “I probably need to be a bit greedier this year. I do need to score a few more, even though I got some decent ones last season.
“I’ll take ten tap-ins this time because if I can add that to my game it’ll be another special season.”
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