The story of Tom Adeyemi rejecting a place at Cambridge University in order to chase a career in football is an apocryphal tale which seems to have stuck.
“That’s more of a myth than anything,” he says. “Quite a good one but still a myth! It seems to be following me around everywhere though, so I just go with it.”
It is true, however, to say that at the age of 18 Leeds United’s newest signing had options. He sat his A-levels and did well enough to apply for university. “The A-levels were really a back-up plan,” Adeyemi says. “I did them knowing that football was what I wanted to do. I’d say I made the right choice.”
Uwe Rosler, United’s head coach, sees in Adeyemi not only a talented, athletic midfielder but a youngster who knows where he wants his career to go. After signing him on loan from Cardiff City last week, Rosler spoke about the “natural progression” of someone who has played in League Two, League One and now the Championship.
In terms of English football, that leaves only one more logical step for Adeyemi. “It’s always been the ambition for me – to be an established Premier League player,” he says. “I know I’ve got some way to go to get myself to that level but I’m very hard-working. I believe I’ll get there eventually.
“The choices I’ve made have worked out so far but there’s no guarantee. At 18 you don’t know what the next few years will hold because football’s so volatile. Even now, at the age of 23, there isn’t a guarantee that I’m going to have a long, successful career. It was definitely a gamble (deciding not to go to university) but it’s one I’d take 100 times out of 100 if I had the chance again.”
Adeyemi learned about the volatility of football at Cardiff last season. Signed 12 months ago from Birmingham City for a fee in excess of £1m, he slipped out of favour after Cardiff sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and named Russell Slade as their new manager. The 23-year-old planned to fight for his place this summer but, after returning for pre-season training, he realised that his prospects were slim. Rosler, who coached Adeyemi at Brentford in 2012 and 2013, asked to sign him and Cardiff were more than ready to negotiate a long-term loan with a view to a permanent transfer.
“I went back to pre-season with every intention of fighting for my place at Cardiff,” he says. “It became clear that I wasn’t going to be a big part of the plans. I thought there was a good chance I’d be moving on and when I heard of interest from Leeds, it was done.
“Managerial changes are part of the game. It comes with football, doesn’t it? It happened at Leeds last season. It’s hard when someone signs you and then another manager comes in and doesn’t particularly see you as their player but this is a new opportunity for me. I’m really looking forward to it and at 23, I want a stable period and somewhere to call home.”
Rosler targeted a holding midfielder at the beginning of the summer and the importance of a signing like Adeyemi – a box-to-box player – was increased after Luke Murphy underwent knee surgery earlier this month.
Leeds chose to release Rudy Austin before appointing Rosler as head coach but the German felt that a player with the same attributes was needed.
Adeyemi’s fitness was slightly short when he completed his transfer but he travelled on this week’s tour of Austria and Norway and made his first appearance in Tuesday night’s friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt in Eugendorf.
“I’ve done a little less training than the rest of the boys and potentially I’m a little bit behind but I feel like I’m catching up really quickly,” he says. “In the next couple of weeks I’ll be up to that level and hopefully beyond. I know what the manager’s about and what he demands of his players. I like to think I can provide what he’s looking for. I’ve been part of his system before so hopefully I’ll be able to slot straight in. That’s one of the reasons why I joined.
“But then there’s the fact that it’s Leeds United, arguably the biggest club in the Championship. All round it just seemed like the perfect thing to do.”
Rosler has spoken of aiming for a top-10 finish next season, believing that to be progress after two years in which Leeds have ranked 15th. But Adeyemi said: “The gaffer’s talking to us about having a top-six mentality – on the pitch, off the pitch and around the training ground. I think that’s really what we’re striving towards.
“If we do everything that a top-six team would do and produce on the pitch then we can be in and around the play-offs. That’s the plan.”