Adams finally wins captain's stripes

Glenn Moore listens to the verdict of the undisputed leader of the England team
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"It was no big deal," Tony Adams said yesterday of Terry Venables's decision to retain him as captain despite David Platt's return to the starting XI on Saturday. Then he gave it away.

Asked just when he had been told he replied, "On Thursday, about 3.15" with a grin that revealed how much the honour meant to him.

It must have meant a lot to Platt too. Yesterday this most media-conscious of players was not inclined to share his thoughts with the press. As he is no longer captain he is no longer obliged to and, given the inevitable line of questioning, one can understand his reluctance.

"It is the manager's decision and every party concerned got on with it," Adams added. "We're all big men, the manager thought it was the best thing for the team and I was obviously delighted to lead the boys out again."

"I just felt it was consistent for the tournament," Venables said. "He has done very well. They are both good captains and one had to be disappointed. It was a difficult decision.

"Tony's leadership qualities are fantastic. Everyone feels he is a great leader and he is very passionate about playing for England."

In truth the decision only formalises what has been evident for a long time - Adams is the natural leader of this team. He takes solicitous care of the younger players and retains a watchful eye over the older ones.

He recalled, at Bisham yesterday, a quiet word he had had with Stuart Pearce concerning penalty shoot-outs. Remembering Pearce's miss in the World Cup semi-final in Turin six years ago Adams had said to him: "You've taken penalties before and since [Turin]. If it [a shoot-out] happened would you take one? He looked at me as if to say 'What the hell are you talking about?' He said, 'Of course I would. I've no fears about it.' I said, 'I should have known that.' I was so pleased for him to bury it after what happened in the World Cup.

"I've seen players choke in penalty situations before," Adams added. "I said to them, 'Let's not choke on it. Be positive and go for your pens. Run through the ball.'

"I felt very positive. I believe in the goalkeeper, he can do magnificent things. He has done them a few times for me at Arsenal. He's that good I thought he could save every one of them."

Adams picked out Seaman's first-half save from Javier Manjarin, when he came rushing from his goal to intercept the Spaniard. "I think he scared the lad to death when he came for that. It was 60-40 in the other lad's favour but such was David's presence he choked on it."

England were struggling a little at that stage and Adams admitted: "We had reverted to old habits. We like to put what the boss calls 'a bite' on the opposition all over the pitch. To do that you need to have players in contact with each other all over. We did not have that. Teddy [Sheringham] and Alan [Shearer] were in between the front three, Macca [Steve McManaman] ended up playing at right- back, Darren [Anderton] was never on the wing. We had to adjust.

"The Spanish were very intelligent. They knew what we do and tried to affect us. Their movement was good. We would send Gareth [Southgate] into midfield [from central defence] then their front lads would drift on to Gary [Neville at right-back]. They would then move inside, dragging him into where Gareth would have been." That left the space for Sergi to push into - which is why McManaman found himself at right-back.

"I was a bit unhappy with that," Adams said, "but what made up for it was the desire and the courage of the boys to go forward and be positive. At half-time everyone was saying, 'We're going to bloody well sort this out.' That was great. If it had been the other way, with people letting things carry on as they were, I would have been a bit upset."

Venables re-arranged things and Adams then ensured his plans were carried out. "You've got to do what your manager wants," Adams said. "It is part of my job.

"But with some managers I have played for in the past I have not particularly agreed with what they are doing. You are torn then between being selected - and telling the other players what he wants. At the end of the day I have always made my own mind up about what is right and wrong. If I thought it was good advice I would probably relay it more to the lads than if I did not."

Do you relay much of what Terry says, Adams was asked. "I tell them everything," he replied with no hint of not meaning it. "He knows the game inside out."

Then the man from Bild, the German Sun, asked if Adams "had a word for the Germans". "I do," he said mischievously. Fortunately, he kept it to himself, instead affording the German a private audience. A captain in word as well as deed.