Adam Idah: ‘When you’re the underdog, it motivates you that bit more’

The young Cork striker is ready for Wednesday’s daunting meeting with Portugal

 Adam Idah of Norwich City has a shot saved by Alisson of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Liverpool at Carrow Road on August 14th. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Adam Idah of Norwich City has a shot saved by Alisson of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Liverpool at Carrow Road on August 14th. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

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Let’s revisit the hat-trick. In January 2020 Adam Idah unveiled his sprinter’s pace alongside a left-foot lob from 40 paces and two slick right-foot finishes as Norwich City knocked Preston North End out of the FA Cup.

The raw striker that Terry O’Donovan coached for 10 seasons at College Corinthians, until the 16-year-old swapped Cork for Norfolk, was beginning to blossom. What could possibly slow his arrival amongst the prolific Premier League goal-scorers?

“He started with us at under six,” O’Donovan told The Irish Times earlier this year. “A tall, gangly young fella. A really nice, easygoing lad, but with electric pace.

Adam still has to learn a lot. He has to learn about what is required with his back to goal, how to keep the ball, how to press the defender

“When he filled out he became too strong for a lot of kids his age. Ball over the top, bang.

“One other great asset is that he can strike a ball with either foot. It did mean he didn’t have to learn the finer points of the game until he went up the levels and got better coaching in the Ireland under-15 and 16 squads. That brought him on an awful lot.”

Life under Daniel Farke at Norwich is bringing him on some more. Current lessons are harsher and may include a dip into the Championship before Tuesday night’s transfer window deadline.

“Gillingham is not Liverpool and Adam still has to learn a lot,” said the Canaries manager after Idah’s pre-season brace. “He has to learn about what is required with his back to goal, how to keep the ball, how to press the defender, his work to run the channels and to realise the gaps where he has to sprint to make the overall team better.”

Top flight

At least Farke added that the 20-year-old is a “natural-born goal-scorer”, but three strikes in 17 Championship appearances did not prompt the German coach to start him for Norwich on this season’s return to the top flight.

“He is a really good player,” said Farke, “but we are working with him on a daily basis to make him even better... but we also demand consistency and we hope he stays fit.”

Injury and Covid plagued Idah last season as the distance between that Preston hat-trick and reality grew wider by the day.

“Obviously, there are loads of areas where I can improve on,” said Idah last Sunday. “If I’m being really honest with myself then I have to improve on everything if I want to be the best.

Adam Idah of Norwich City in Premier League action against Joel Matip of Liverpool on August 14th. Photograph: Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images
Adam Idah of Norwich City in Premier League action against Joel Matip of Liverpool on August 14th. Photograph: Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images

“During the summer I worked quite a bit on my strength and fitness. In pre-season and in the start of the league I’ve shown this.”

Now, on the eve of Stephen Kenny’s most daunting task as Republic of Ireland manager, Idah was presented to the media. Is it a sign that he will lead the line or is it a ruse?

Wednesday’s starting XI will answer this question but the Cork native, of Nigerian and Irish parents, brought that easygoing-ness to his virtual interview.

“When you’re the underdog, it motivates you that bit more because you know what people on the outside are thinking,” said Idah at the prospect of being picked up by Rúben Dias or the ageless Pepe. “As a team, it excites you that you want to play against them, prove everyone wrong, show what you can do. I’m so excited to play.”

Mind the house

Again, this sounds like he knows something we do not. Kenny is determined to field a team ranked 47 by Fifa that will force the eighth seeds to mind the house. Aaron Connolly’s pace, Troy Parrott’s movement and even a muscular shift by James Collins could ask similar questions to what Idah brings – in that none of them have proved their worth against elite defenders.

“None of us have fear,” said Idah. “There shouldn’t be any fear coming into these games. These are the moments we’ve all dreamt of playing in, playing against the best players in the world, the best teams. The feeling is one of excitement. We’re going to go out there and do the best we can.

“Obviously, everybody knows how good Portugal are and the players they have in their squad. But we’re Ireland and we’ve got so much belief in ourselves and have got so much talent in the squad.”

Heartening words to hear, but considering they cannot be backed up by evidence, we switch tack to Portugal’s world record-chasing goal machine.

“Yeah, brought up, he was my favourite player.”

Why?

“Just the way he carries himself. I think he’s got an unbelievable attitude. Obviously a great work ethic. What he does on the pitch is amazing. His goal-scoring record is just outrageous. Overall, he’s one of the best for me.”

Idah casually revealed the internal fight for Ronaldo’s jersey is already over.

“I’ve already got in there,” he said, deadpan.

How?

“I’ve got a couple of contacts.”

Signed as well?

“Hopefully.”

Easygoing and not over-thinking any of this.

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