As they watch the World Cup in Russia, it’s the dream of all boys to follow in the footsteps of England’s stars, such as Harry Kane, Jesse Lingard, John Stones and Dele Alli.
But for 13-year-old Ripley lad Adam Clark, he has a role model closer to home to look up to. For his great great grandfather, Alf Strange, not only won 20 caps for England back in the 1930s, he also captained his country three times.
Now Adam is well on his way to pursuing his own career as a professional footballer after being snapped up by the 2016 Premier League champions Leicester City. And what’s more, he is doing it by courageously overcoming a severe obstacle after he was diagnosed with type-one diabetes.
“He is my hero!” beamed mum Victoria, 42. “He has been so brave. When Adam first found out he was diabetic, he was devastated, and his confidence took a massive knock.
“But we told him not to let it beat him, and he has impressed us all with the way he has turned his life around. He now wants to prove to everybody that he can become a professional player.”
Adam, who goes to John Flamsteed Community School, lives on Charnwood Drive in Ripley with his mum, dad Steve, 57, sister Lauren, 15, and brother Flynn, seven.
According to Victoria, from the moment he could walk, he wanted to kick a football. Now he has grown into a commanding 5’11” tall centre back with a sweet left foot.
His talent was quickly spotted and as an eight-year-old, he signed for the academy at Notts County, where he spent three years before he was stunned by the Magpies’ decision to release him.
“They said he was too inconsistent,” recalled Victoria. “Brilliant one week, but not so good the next.
“He was quickly set on by Mansfield Town, but two weeks later, he was diagnosed with diabetes, and we found out a possible explanation for that inconsistency. Now he can manage the condition.”
Victoria is full of praise for the way Adam’s coaches, particularly Nathan Cantrill, rebuilt his confidence in the two years he spent at Mansfield.
Big clubs, such as Liverpool, West Brom, Aston Villa and Wolves, soon came knocking on his door, but he has chosen Leicester, which houses one of only 24 category-one academies in the country.
Adam has been handed a one-year contract, which could lead to a two-year scholarship. From there, he will be close to emulating Strange, who played for Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale and who has a room at Ripley Leisure Centre named after him.
His diabetes means he must have his blood-sugar levels checked up to ten times a day, receive insulin injections five times a day and carefully watch his diet. But as he supports his new ‘teammates’ at the World Cup, such as Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy, he is determined that nothing will get in the way of his footballing ambitions.