Amid all the hype and hullabaloo surrounding Che Adams’ international debut, Callum McFadzean’s latest call-up for his country got lost among the noise.
Apart from, that is, inside one ex-pat’s house on the southern outskirts of the Steel City.
“I qualify for Scotland because my grandad, my dad’s dad, is from up there,” the Sheffield United defender explains. “He’s from Glasgow originally but he actually lives here now. I popped up to see him when I got the news and he was delighted for me. But, to be honest, it might have just been relief because he was probably worried I might have chosen England.”
By McFadzean’s own admission, his presence in Ricky Sbragia’s under-21 squad has “gone under the radar a bit” at Bramall Lane. Inside the boot room however, where one of Nigel Adkins’ first acts after being appointed manager was to hand every player he inherited a clean slate, the youngster is definitely a person of interest. McFadzean, a member of the squad which reached the FA Youth Cup final five seasons ago, has made faltering progress since that double header against United’s namesakes from Manchester but, after several false starts under his most recent predecessors, Adkins’ arrival has breathed new life into the 21-year-old’s career.
“Right from day one, when we all reported to the university for some tests, he told me I had a clean slate and that’s all I wanted,” McFadzean says during a break in training at the Steelphalt Academy. “ I’ll give everything I can to try and force my way in because I really appreciate what he said and what he’s doing for me. I know I still haven’t made it yet, I know I’ve got a long, long way to go and lots to learn but I’ll be doing everything I can. It’s given me even more fire in my belly to succeed.”
Not that McFadzean, who won his second cap during Scotland’s win over Northern Ireland last month, is short of incentives. A lifelong supporter of the League One club, older brother Kyle helped MK Dons reach the Championship earlier this year and, like Adkins, is a source of inspiration and advice after acknowledging during an interview with The Star that some youthful indiscretions dashed his own hopes of forging a career in South Yorkshire.
“He’s always on at me, wanting to know what I’m doing and how I’m doing it and it’s great to have that sort of help,” McFadzean says. “Knowing people want you to do well makes you even more determined to repay them and I really appreciate it. I really do feel I’ve grown up in the last couple of years and now I’m doing everything I can to try and be a top professional. Fitness wide and mentally, I feel I’ve got much more of an edge. I’m a local lad and it would be a dream come true if I got up with United. Promotions are what they are made of but to do it here, well, that would be something else.”
McFadzean, who hopes to feature in some capacity against Fleetwood Town this evening, came agonisingly close to achieving that ambition when, after scoring during the first-leg of United’s play-off semi-final against Yeovil Town in 2013, he featured in the team subsequently beaten at Huish Park. Another opportunity followed, 10 months later, following the first of two moves to Burton Albion on loan.
“I got a huge amount of experience from going there,” McFadzean continues. “When I went to begin with, there was about three months of the season left and I didn’t really know where they were in the division. But we got some good results, got to the League Two play-off final and were really unlucky not to win it.”
“I came back from there a lot more confident,” McFadzean adds. “I know I’ve still got tons to do and learn but that time gave me much more knowledge of the game and helped me understand it more. Things like what exactly managers want in certain situations, how to kill games off and just the edge of playing for three points.”
The fact that McFadzean, who missed United’s recent draw at the Pirelli Stadium due to injury, left United in the first place suggests that some of Adkins’ most recent predecessors were not entirely convinced about his potential. But the former Southampton and Scunthorpe chief, having selected him for the opening match of the present campaign, has been quick to identify McFadzean’s worth. Sbragia too.
“There were players in front of me and it just felt right at that moment in time to play some professional football,” he says. “I’ll always remember Burton and be grateful but I was always a United player and, in the back of my mind, it was always about coming back here and trying to get in.
“It was after coming back to do my rehab after breaking my foot that the whole Scotland thing came up. I’d been for a few trials if you like and heard some good reports but I couldn’t believe it when I got pulled and told I’d been called-up. It’s all gone under the radar a bit but I’m so proud to get the nod.”