At 18 years of age, Adam Pepper has already had a fair few years in the limelight. At the age of just two, a Liverpool scout told Adam’s mother Mary, that he would grow up to be a star and she was given a John Barnes shirt and a signed football. At 8, she was first officially approached by an agent representing Manchester City who were showing an interest in the kid’s talents. It was at aged 11 however when all manor of clubs began to circle the youngster. 8 Premier League clubs including Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal were interested in the kid and they began to try and persuade his family that their club was the right one for their child. In a report by the Daily Mirror in 2003, Pepper was said to be “Wayne Rooney 2” and a superstar in waiting, already worth £5million.
To get around strict rules to prevent influencing the family through financial incentives, Pepper was bombarded with gifts such as signed football boots, VIP Match tickets, free kits, a birthday card from Ryan Giggs and even visits from Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard. Adam didn’t really know what to make of it all:
I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I’d like to play alongside Wayne at Everton one day. I look up to him. I am always being sent new pairs of boots – we’ve had to turn the shed into a boot room there’s so many. They ask me which type I like best…but I just like wearing black ones.
His real focus was on football, something his father Ronnie wanted him to do. Keeping his feet on the ground was important for his father as he had been released as a youngster from the Everton academy and wanted his son to have a level head about it all. Adam certainly only had a focus on football at the time:
When I’m playing, it all sort of comes to me. I can see some of the lads around me don’t think as fast as I do and I can think about passing the ball before I get possession. I am always looking at ways to improve my game and that’s what goes through my head. I’m only young and all these clubs can wait.
Due to his boyhood idol being Wayne Rooney, Pepper became affiliated with Everton until he was 14 years old. He then however made a dramatic switch to join Liverpool and he signed with the Reds to join their academy at Kirkby.
The description of Pepper of being the next Wayne Rooney may have been wide of the mark, but the midfielder is certainly developing into a very talented footballer. He has become a very important part of the U-18s side and was a key figure in the team reaching the FA Youth Cup final last season. He was however injured in the semi-final and was not able to play in the two legged final defeat to Arsenal. The team certainly missed Pepper’s creative play in the tie.
Pepper can play either in midfield or up-front, and is excellent in possession with a wide range of passing. Despite his lack of height, he is tenacious and strong and is not pushed off the ball too often. He can also score goals as well as create them, shown demonstratively in his fantastic half way line goal in a 2-2 draw against Blackburn in the Academy Premier league last season. The goal demonstrated all of his abilities as after he won a tackle in the centre circle, Pepper carried the ball slightly forward before he spotted the keeper off his line. In a split second, he decided to have a go on goal and he delivered a fantastic lob from 45 yards out that went all the way over the keeper’s head into the net. Coach Hugh McAuley compared the moment to Xabi Alonso:
It was a really impressive goal and it was like watching Xabi Alonso. Adam has tried it a few times but this was the first time it’s come off.
Such goals no doubt show Pepper’s talents but he may not want to wait around for Rafa Benitez to give him first team football. According to the News of the World last week, Everton manager David Moyes is interested in the 18 year old, and tempted by more first team opportunities, considering the emergence of Jack Rodwell and Dan Gosling at Goodison Park, the midfielder may want a move back across Stanley Park. If there is any truth to this rumour, Benitez may want to consider whether the talents of Pepper are worth losing to their Merseyside rivals.