Former Arsenal captain Tony Adams determined to return to prove his worth as coach in Premier League

April 6th, 20126:12 am @


What followed was an hour and a half of wit, insight and a glimpse of his
burning urge to prove himself as a manager after his unsatisfactory
experiences in charge of Portsmouth and Wycombe Wanderers.

Adams is still with Gabala in Azerbaijan in an advisory or ambassadorial role.

Last November he realised there was no need for him to carry on coaching the
first XI and so now he uses his sharp eye and contacts around Europe.

Nice work if you can get it, but in a year or two, when the Gabala scheme is
self-sustaining, you can see him accepting a major challenge back in the
English leagues.

But there is a problem – and he knows it.

The superficial view of him is that the “recovery” process will always lend
him a slightly zany edge that players will misunderstand or retreat from.

He says Marco van Basten feels much the same way about labels.

That Milanese and Dutch aristocrat no longer wants to be known as the wonder
striker who was hacked out of the game in his late twenties.

He told Adams he wants to be known simply as “a coach” and not someone still
imprisoned in the first half of his life.

I could see during our conversation that it would be an injustice and a waste
to measure Adams by his pioneering work to help others with the Sporting
Chance Clinic, or by his soul-baring, which comes with a healthy side order
of self-deprecation.

“Sixteen years ago I’d have called you a name in a pub,” he joked of our minor
falling out (for which the fault was mine).

“But it’s so much better sorting it out with a conversation.”

Adams is prominent among a generation of high achievers who feel frustrated by
the number of charlatans in the football business, and by the obstacles to
English coaches.

He excelled as Harry Redknapp’s defensive coach in Portsmouth’s FA Cup-winning
team and was talked into taking over when Redknapp left to go to

It was a mistake. Pompey had the sixth highest wage bill in the Premier League
but the money was running out. Fast.

With implosion imminent, morale collapsed and results deteriorated, which
tainted his CV.

He now knows it would have been better to leave before Redknapp quit, which
had been his inclination.

All the way through he wanted to graduate to No 1 at a well-run club.

“Pick your chairman” has always been Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice to young

Yet fewer and fewer club guardians appear attractive to the brightest minds.

Equally the club where his spirit is still detectable – Arsenal – are
resistant to bringing legends back into the coaching set-up, as Manchester
United have.

Adams and Patrick Vieira (a success at Manchester City) are the two who would
add most to Arsenal’s training ground work, which, many experts say, has not
changed much during Arsène Wenger’s reign.

His views on teams and players are compelling. He sees the game in all its

England, he asserts, have not rotated players on the pitch in the Dutch or
Spanish manner since Euro 96.

This makes sense. The fluidity of Terry Venables’ side was not sustained. It
was mostly back to grids and lines.

He talks about how much he always needed to win and how he could never abide

Mastering one’s emotions is a vital tool of management.

There were times when you could imagine him overreacting to a setback or
freaking-out his players but even this could just be another label.

If there is a template, it might be Martin O’Neill, whom Adams clearly
admires: a fierce heart and shrewd eye remain an unbeatable combination.

The strongest, most reliable people are barged aside so easily in English

This should not happen to Tony Adams.

There will be a life beyond Gabala, just as there was a happy ending on the
other side of addiction.

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