Derek Adams

If Stuart Elliott and Derek Adams have their way then expect a revival at Motherwell Football Club. And I’m not referring to an upturn in the on-field fortunes of the Scottish Premier League club.

Elliott and Adams may be passionate about their football, but you only have to spend a few minutes with them to realise that is put into the shade by an even greater desire to share their Christian faith with their team-mates.

Their enthusiasm literally bubbles over, particularly Elliott who describes himself as a typical Ulsterman, “You just can’t shut me up.” Adams is definitely the quieter of the two, but the combination seems to be a near-perfect match for effective witness.

“We are two different characters,” says Adams. “Stuart can talk to people more easily than I can, but perhaps the way I try to show Christ in my life is through the way I try to live my life. I guess you could say we complement each other.

“Every day at Motherwell an opportunity or a situation arises regarding our faith. They guys are always asking questions, sometimes it may be an attempt to trick us up, but at least they’re asking. To me that is an indication that something is getting through.”

And neither is shy in attempting to get maximum mileage out of those opportunities that do arise. Elliott even confesses to thoughts of going all the way to the top. “I’ve been thinking about going to Billy Davies (the Motherwell manager) and asking for five minutes of his time so I can tell him about my faith and why I believe what I believe,” admits Elliott.

Both players have taken very different paths en route to Fir Park.

Adams, born in Glasgow but raised in Aberdeen, was signed by the Pittodrie club as a 16-year-old where he spent three seasons before heading south to Burnley, in the English first division. That move lasted just 18 months and in 1996 he was back in Scotland, at Ross County. A highly successful stint at the Highlands club attracted the attention of Motherwell, and in 1998 they paid 175,000 pounds to take the striker to Glasgow on a three-year contract.

Adams, 26, has since signed a further two-year extension to the deal which ties him to the club until the middle of 2003.

“I’m very happy to be at Motherwell, and knowing that my future is secure for the next few years is a good thing. The guys are a great bunch and it’ll be good to build on the friendships that I’ve developed over the few years I’ve been here.

“It’s also really good to have Stuart around the club and he’s a great support. In fact, I’ve been fortunate that there have been other Christians at most of the professional clubs I’ve played at.”

Elliott’s path to top-flight football has been more straightforward. Raised in Belfast – “football was my get-out clause from getting caught up in the troubles in Northern Ireland” – he joined Glentoran, in the Northern Ireland league, as a 16-year-old in 1994. He remained with the part-time club, working as a window cleaner during the day and training in the evening, until July last year when Motherwell offered him the chance to fulfil a childhood dream of being a professional footballer.

It was his natural instinct for scoring goals which had prompted Motherwell to take Elliott to Glasgow, and the diminutive striker didn’t disappoint. He was quickly into his stride, despite having to adjust to the higher standard of the SPL, and so impressive was his form that another dream was about to be realised.

“I was preparing for a game with Motherwell when Billy Davies came up to me and said, ‘What’s the world coming to when people like you get picked to play for your country’,” explains Elliott of the moment he was informed of his international call-up.

“I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, a full-time player for only two months and I was being picked to play for Northern Ireland. It was totally unexpected, but it’s been the highlight of my career to date.”

Elliott, 23, made his Northern Ireland debut in a friendly against Malta at Windsor Park. He has since gone on to play eight times for his country, scoring his first international goal against Bulgaria in May this year.

Just as their careers have taken different paths to the same destination in Glasgow, so too has been the work of Christ in their lives.

Church and football has always been a part of Adams’s life. His parents are Christians, and his father, George, was himself a former professional footballer before injury cut short his career after spells with Aberdeen and Partick Thistle.

It’s been an ideal grounding to help Adams cope with the pressures and temptations that life as a footballer can sometimes attract, and he nominates his parents and sister as the major influences on his career.

“I suppose you could say that I experienced a gradual development into Christianity,” he says. “There was no thunder and lightning-type conversion.

“I was taken to church every Sunday and as I got older and began to understand more I decided that I wanted to ask Christ into my life. But there was no dramatic change in my lifestyle.

“I sometimes wish that perhaps I did have that dramatic conversion I could look back on. But when I think about it, I’m very thankful for the upbringing I’ve had.

“Being a Christian does influence the way I conduct myself both on and off the field. I’m very aware that I need to be example in the way I behave. I find Luke 6:31 – ‘And just as you want men to do to you, you do to them likewise’ - a very helpful verse from the Bible.

“My faith also has an impact on the ambitions I have in football, because I believe that what I achieve in life has already been set out for me by God.

Elliott, on the other hand, has savoured the life-changing experience that only Christ can offer.

Growing up in East Belfast, the young Elliott, while not wayward, was your typical mischievous boy. As a teenager he enjoyed going out with his friends and occasionally having too much to drink. But his life changed dramatically when as a 17-year-old he was taken along to a tent mission and there, after hearing the speaker talk about Christ’s love for him and the new life He offers, Elliott decided that was for him.

Now married to Laura-Lee and with a three-year-old son Nathan, Elliott is often asked to share his story at church services or other Christian events.

“I actually had to give my testimony at church the other day and one of the young guys from Motherwell came along. That was brilliant,” says Elliott.

“I really believe that I am in the centre of God’s will at the moment, I’m where He wants me.

“Satan threw everything at me when I first arrived (at Motherwell), but God has guided me through.

“I believe I have the ability to go a lot further in my career, and with God’s blessing I hope to do that. I’d really like to get picked up by a Premiership team in England, ideally Liverpool who I’ve supported since I was a boy.

“But on the other hand, if God asked me to give football away tomorrow then I can honestly say that I would. It would be extremely tough, but I believe that if God wanted me to give the game away, then what He would replace it with would be much better for me. He’s my Creator, so He knows what’s best for me.”

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