Daniel Ayala could tell that Adam Wharton was a special talent from his first training session with the senior squad at Rovers.

The defender was one of the more experienced players at Ewood Park when Wharton burst onto the scene, having progressed through the Academy set-up.

The pair played alongside each other during the 2022/23 campaign as Rovers narrowly missed out on a play-off spot under Jon Dahl Tomasson.

“From the first training session, I just felt he was different,” Ayala told The Guardian. “He always seemed to have time on the ball, even though he was under a lot of pressure, and he would never lose it. That was the sign of a good player.

“Adam did not talk too much but he was just coming through the Academy. He was shy on the outside but it did not reflect on the pitch and he played the way he always had done.”

Ayala also played alongside Scott Wharton at the heart of defence and reckons Adam benefitted from being around his older brother, who had enjoyed a similar rise from the youth ranks to the first-team picture.

“They got on really well,” he continued. “You could see maybe sometimes that the manager wanted something else from him and his brother would need to speak to him sometimes because ­Adam was really laid-back, so his brother sometimes needed to tell him they needed more from him.

“Sometimes you felt like he could be more aggressive and the manager would tell him this, but he never changed. Maybe that is why he has gone so far so quickly.


“He was different to everyone on the pitch - the way he would move the ball, see the pass and he would try to play forward at every opportunity.

“What should not be forgotten is that he was great in the tackle - because he is so laid back, people think he does not go in for tackles and things like that.

“But it is the opposite - he tackles really well and is just clever enough to wait for the right moment to do it.”

The midfielder is now hoping to make his first competitive appearance for England after being named in Gareth Suothgate’s final 26-man squad for the Euros in Germany.

The Three Lions kick off the tournament on Sunday night against Serbia and also have group matches coming up against Denmark and Slovenia.

Wharton made his senior debut during the 3-0 win against Bosnia-Herzegovina last week – only three months after he had represented the Under-21 squad for the first time.

The 20-year-old’s assured performances in the Premier League since heading to Crystal Palace in January have seen him called up ahead of the likes of Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones.

“To go into the England team the way he is doing it is incredible,” Ayala insisted. “No-one saw it going like this, not even him. It shows you how good he is.”