IN a professional career that has spanned 19 seasons now, Charlie Adam has played at a much higher level than Dundee and won far bigger matches than the two-legged Premiership play-off final with Kilmarnock.

Yet, none of the midfielder’s previous achievements, not the English Championship play-off final triumph with Blackpool in 2010 or the League Cup victory at Liverpool in 2012, has given him the same level of satisfaction as the 4-2 aggregate success.

Helping his home town team to return to the top flight of Scottish football at the age of 35 at Rugby Park on Monday evening proved to be an emotional experience.   

“It was special because it was the club I supported as a boy,” he said. “I stood on the terraces watching them. So to captain the team and be able to win promotion is just incredible. Just to play for the club was special for me. But to then have this opportunity? It’s what dreams are made of.

“We managed to drag this club back into the Premiership and it deserves to be there. We have a big fan base and a good owner and that’s what I signed up for, to get us back to where we belong and we’ve managed to achieve that.

“Is it the most enjoyable thing I’ve done in football? This is the best. I dreamed of playing for my boyhood club in the top division and we’ve managed to get them there. It probably won’t sink in until I sober up on Tuesday. Right now I’m just dying for next season’s fixtures to come out.”

Adam played for Rangers in Europe as well as Blackpool, Liverpool and Stoke City in the Premier League in England, but he rates emulating the Dundee idols he had worshipped as a boy growing up among his greatest accomplishment.

Being congratulated by some Dark Blues greats for getting the Tayside club, who were denied the chance to win promotion last year when the play-offs were abandoned following the Covid-19 outbreak, back into the Premiership was a thrill. 

“I was fortunate enough to see the great players we had when [owners] Peter and Jimmy Marr put a lot of money into the football club,” he said. “They brought in the likes of Claudio Caniggia, Georgi Menzadza and Fabian Caballero.

“But my biggest hero was the midfielder, Iain Anderson. He was my favourite when I was growing up. Years later I played alongside him at St Mirren when I was on loan from Rangers.

“When I checked my mobile ‘phone after the game I was fortunate enough to have received text messages from Rab Douglas and Barry Smith. For people like that to contact me is just a great feeling.

“I’m delighted for them and, obviously, they’re delighted for us. Am I a club hero now? It’s not about me, it’s about the whole club. It’s about the fans enjoying this and they will, which is the biggest thing.”

As a lifelong Dundee fan, Adam is well aware that he and his team mates will have to do well in the Premiership next term to satisfy their supporters, but he is confident they can meet the demands of those notoriously hard-to-please followers. 

“There will be big pressure next year and it won’t matter about how well we’ve done now because the supporters will expect to see a winning team and we need to rise to that,” he said.

“I can’t wait. I’m excited. We have a few big challenges ahead. We’ll just have to dust ourselves down, go again and see what happens. I’m already signed up for next season so I’m hoping there’s life left in the old legs.

“It’s going to be a big test, but we have a good board, one which has backed the manager. James (McPake) has been excellent and done an outstanding job here. He’s also been phenomenal for me, on and off the pitch. He’s given me freedom and it’s been a joy to play for him.”

Adam continued: “We can’t stand still. We need to build again. The manager will be looking to bring players in to freshen things up, but that’s fine. This is our opportunity to go and play against the best clubs and players in Scotland.

“We did well, up to a point, against St Johnstone and Hibs in the cups so we know we can do it on our day, but there’s more to it than that. This will be a great experience for the boys who’ve never played in the Premiership before.”

Adam has had a difficult season for a number of different reasons. His mother passed away after a long illness at the turn of the year. He also contracted coronavirus not once but twice. The form of the Dundee team was also indifferent for long spells and promotion looked unlikely until a late upturn in results.

He believes the togetherness that former Livingston, Coventry City and Hibernian defender McPake successfully fostered amidst the pandemic was crucial to them attaining their objective and feels that will count for a great deal when they play in what promises to be a fiercely contested Premiership.

“It’s about team spirit,” he said. “We spoke about that before the game, how we managed to develop that spirit without being in the dressing room every day, not being able to have the showers due to Covid and that’s a testament to the lads.

“I’ve had it twice, but as a club we have done well in terms of the small number of Covid situations we’ve had to deal with this season. We’ll improve, but that won’t be about everyone being back in the dressing room.

“It’ll be because of the good training we have every day and the understanding we have about what it takes to win football matches. We then go on the pitch and adhere to that and our results have been fabulous.

“The manager sets the structure up, but we have some good players. You saw over these two legs that we were better than Kilmarnock and we deserved to go up. It was a great moment.

“Now that we’re in the division, I think that this will be the best Premiership for a long, long time. All the big boys are in it: Rangers, Celtic, Hibs, Hearts and Aberdeen plus we’ll have the return of the Dundee derby. It’s going to be great.”