Tony Adams : Captain, Leader and Legend
Arsenal have had a terrible season so far, knocked out of the Champions League after a 10 goal thrashing by the hands of Bayern Munich. Arsenal might find it tough to break into the Premier League top 4. If you ask any Arsenal fan what the team is missing, all of them will agree that a leader is lacking on the pitch. It is not wrong since they have been spoiled by Tony Adams, Mr. Arsenal himself.
Tony Adams was a star and loved by the Highbury faithful. A powerful and dominant centre back, captaining the side for 14 years, a one club man, Tony Adams breathed Arsenal. He was loved so much that Arsenal fans gave him the title of Mr. Arsenal. He used to love Arsenal the same and also went on to say,
I love Arsenal and I wish I could work for them. You know how you feel when one of your mates who writes a blog gets a post up on the dot com? Yeah, that’s me. I’m chuffed at anything the club invites me to do and really just want to be connected at some level, any level.
Tony Adams first broke through the ranks of Arsenal aged just 17 under manager Don Howe. Tony first joined the Arsenal academy aged 14 in 1980. Tony was a schoolboy then but had impressed the scouts of Arsenal. Even at that age, Adams had the quality of leadership in him. Harry Redknapp saw Tony Adams at the academy and said,
I first saw him aged 16 and I don’t think I have ever seen a player of that age bossing a game in that way. It stayed with me for a long time.Tony was such an influence that he as good as ran every dressing-room he played in, for England and Arsenal.
Tony Adams became a first team starter under the management of Steve Burtenshaw. Rightly so, he deserved it. A strong, solid centre back with a great understanding of the game, a hell of a tackle and getting the occasional goal, Arsenal couldn’t have hoped for a better defender. Tony became the captain aged just 21 and the rest is history. Mr. Arsenal dominated the EPL for many years and had a trophy laden career winning 13 trophies in that Arsenal shirt. Adams was part of the ‘famous five’ alongside Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Steve Bould and goalkeeper David Seaman that guarded the Arsenal goal. David Seaman was a great friend of Tony and went on to say
He was just brilliant. He was a great man-motivator, knew when to get on your back, but knew when to do it, when you needed a little shove. Just a great captain and it was great having him in front of me.
But much like any player, Adams also had a few problems in his career. Tony loved the occasional drink, but that occasional became a little too much, alcoholism became a big problem in the player’s life. Getting into fights, spending countless nights at the bar, driving drunk were everyday things for him. He was once caught driving drunk and was in a bad condition with his alcohol levels being four times higher than the legal drunk-drive limit. On 19th December 1990, Tony was sentenced to four months in jail but was released after serving half the time. His case of alcoholism became famous throughout England.
In the latter part of Adams career when he was trying to recover from alcoholism, a certain someone by the name of Arsene Wenger became the Arsenal manager. Adams’ recovery from alcoholism was helped after Arsene’s entry. After being disappointed with the condition and health practices of the club, Arsene decided to change them. He changed the club’s dietary practices, player’s lifestyle and did not allow players to hang out together in a club.
Adams was a leader and also captained the English national team for many years featuring in 66 games. Adams made his debut for England against Spain in 1987, and played in Euro 88, scoring one of England's two goals. He was the first player to represent England who had been born after the 1966 World Cup win. However the player suffered many international setbacks after not being included in 1990 World Cup squad and being injured in the 1992 Euros. However Adams never lost his place in the national team. He captained the team for 4 years between 1996 – 2000. Adams retired from the national team in 2000 playing his last game at the old Wembley stadium losing to Germany. However, he scored his last goal for England at the Wembley in a friendly against Saudi Arabia. He became the last player to score a goal at the old Wembley before it was torn down for renovation. Phil Thompson, his England team mate, said this about Adams,
I was always a great admirer of him. Every time you looked he was always in the right place – he put his body on the line all the time and demanded the same from the rest of his team-mates.
After retiring, Adams became the manager of Wycombe Wanderers but was unable to prevent them from relegation. His next season was pretty good but they started to lose form as the season progressed. He resigned as the manager in November 2004 citing personal reasons. He joined Feyenoord to manage the Jong (youth) team and also worked as a part-time scout for Arsenal covering games in Holland, Italy and France. He later joined Portmouth as an assitant to Harry Redknapp but after Redknapp left for Spurs, Adams became the full time manager. He was sacked after just 16 games in-charge in which Portsmouth could only pick up 10 points. A bizarre move if that’s what one can call it, Adams went to manage Gabala, a team based in Azerbaijan. He spent 1 and a half season as the Gabala manager before returning as a sporting director for them. Most recently, Tony Adams has been picked up by Granada until the end of the 2016-2017 season to save them from relegation.
Tony Adams may not have had a most successful managerial career but he was one of the best defenders. Arsenal can never forget his contributions and will forever live on as Mr. Arsenal to the North Londoners.