Footballers are not known for their appreciation of the underdog. In a culture where wealth and fame are seen as signs of success, they have a few designated clichés ("there are no easy games in football") that are deployed to deter suggestions of complacency. But, more often than not, they gravitate towards the rich and famous. And when it comes to the end-of-season honours, they vote for them, too.
All of which heightens Charlie Adam's achievement in being shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year award. He is the greatest outsider in the reckoning since Georgi Kinkladze and Sasa Curcic gained support 15 years ago. Like Adam, both were newcomers to the division without a natural constituency of friends to support their candidacy as well as being flair players in teams at the wrong end of the table.
So the Scot represents the unlikeliest interloper at a private party in a decade and a half, but the recognition is deserved. In recent Premier League history, Paul Scholes and Xabi Alonso may be the only midfielders to have played as many inch-perfect 60-yard passes. His importance to Blackpool is obvious, too: their captain, talisman and joint top scorer is also their player with most shots on and off target, the one who has delivered most crosses and got most assists, their most fouled footballer and the one who has committed most offences, earning most bookings. It is harsh on his more deserving team-mates to brand Blackpool a one-man team, but when Adam served a two-match ban recently, the Seasiders lost both games by an aggregate score of 7-1.
A dramatic leap to a position of prominence was confirmed at the end of transfer window when Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham all expressed an interest in him and when Aston Villa's bids were deemed derisory by Ian Holloway. Whether or not Blackpool's spell in the Premier League proves short-lived, Adam's time at Bloomfield Road is nearing its end.
So why, then, should the elite managers ignore Adam this summer? He possesses proven leadership qualities, has excelled in many of the major matches (Liverpool twice, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham, as well as last season's play-off final) and Sir Alex Ferguson said his corners alone were worth £10 million.
But Blackpool's slide towards the relegation zone indicates that opponents are savvier about stopping them in general, and Adam in particular. He is no longer afforded so much space and his distribution is disrupted. Hassling and harrying Adam has its benefits. He remains capable of extraordinary balls, but his pass-completion rate is decreasing - it was under 50% in the recent draw with Blackburn - partly because of a preference for the overambitious. It is eye-catching, but the bigger clubs tend to value unobtrusive neatness on the ball.
Then there is the feature that endears Adam to many - his physique. He is often described as an old-fashioned footballer and a throwback, resembling the man on the street more than the average athlete. Yet this has a drawback as, when Adam runs out of steam, often around the hour mark, so do Blackpool. They concede late goals by the bucketload: three in 19 minutes against United, three in 14 against Everton, 13 in the last five minutes of matches. Once momentum is lost, it is rarely regained: Holloway has a habit of taking Adam off in the 88th minute and Blackpool's defence tends to be breached in his absence.
Moreover, the manner of the goals can be damning. Adam is a deep-lying midfielder, but not a defensive one. Kieran Richardson twice sprinted away from him to score for Sunderland in February; so did Arsenal's Abou Diaby on Sunday. Quite simply, he tracks too few runners back into his own box.
That can be forgiven at Blackpool, but perhaps not elsewhere. He benefits from pre-eminence at Bloomfield Road but a man who floundered on the fringes of the Rangers squad would encounter a different environment elsewhere. Unless a team is built around him, a certain mentality is required to prosper among squads of 20 or 25 internationals. The survivors can deal with exclusion, brief cameos, being played out of position and parachuted into crucial games. Adam's peripatetic career before he benefited from Holloway's infectious enthusiasm does not suggest he is equipped for it.
In any event, it is hard to see where some of his supposed suitors could accommodate him, especially as Adam seems to lack the engine to operate in an orthodox 4-4-2. Harry Redknapp's propensity to accumulate players is well known but Luka Modric is his premier playmaker, allying an impressive work ethic to his passing game. With Sandro's emergence and Tom Huddlestone's talent, he is not short of potential partners, each of whom offers more defensively than Adam can. At Anfield, meanwhile, Kenny Dalglish has indicated that he sees Steven Gerrard's future in the centre of midfield, rather than a more advanced role. Finding room for the captain and Raul Meireles may pose problems enough without signing Adam; in any case, the recruit Liverpool really require in that department is a belated replacement for Javier Mascherano, not another more attack-minded player.
That leaves Manchester United. Adam could be seen as a budget successor to Scholes in a midfield where the only creators who can play in the middle are 36 and 37 respectively. Ferguson's willingness to field three central midfielders would suit him, but it has been challenged by Javier Hernandez's precocity, which has brought a reversion to a strike duo. To pick a pair in the middle against demanding opponents would mean his partner must be a workaholic to compensate for Adam's immobility. He could illuminate routine wins at Old Trafford, but a three-dimensional player is what United actually need.
Feted for his improbable rise, Adam's future may nevertheless be as uncertain as Blackpool's. While he merits a pay rise and the chance to display his talent on a grander stage, this season threatens to be a one-off for captain and club alike.