Adams revels in power of positive thinking

England defender who has put his problems behind him and is enjoying his new-found freedom and maturity
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The Independent Online
So how are you feeling?'' "I'm feeling really good...Oh, you mean physically. Well, my ankle's still a problem."

Thus did Tony Adams reply to the first question put to him at England's Bisham Abbey HQ yesterday. Mental fitness, rather than bodily fitness, is the first thing on his mind these days.

It would be wrong to cast Adams as a man haunted by his past, though when The Independent's photographer asked him to pose behind a door he replied, "No thanks, it'll look as if I'm back in prison." He is just understandably aware of it when confronted by the media.

These days Adams is more interested in looking forward. When asked if he could have been a Matthias Sammer if his development had not been shackled by George Graham he replied: "I'm a better defender than he is, let's be positive.''

He is, but it is Adams' liberation, as a player under Arsene Wenger, and a man under Alcoholics Anonymous (something of a misnomer in his case), that has caught the eye.

Adams used to be defensive in interviews. Now he is almost irritatingly clever, talking around the most banal of questions like a politician on the stump - perhaps his new stay-at-home persona has led to watching too many election specials.

There are a couple of significant differences however. Unlike the politicians he is at pains to answer questions with self-searching honesty and produces more than just soundbites. But back to that injured ankle. Bearing in mind the mess Italy made of an Adams-less defence in the last World Cup tie, will it keep him out of England's Wembley date with Georgia on Wednesday?

That rather depends on Glenn Hoddle, explained Adams who sat out training because of the problem. "In the past I would simply have trained today and suffered. Now I tell the manager I have a problem and it is up him. I am honest with everyone involved and the responsibility is his.''

The injury is a legacy of attempting to come back too soon after an operation early this year on his ankle ligaments.

"I rushed back after two weeks when the medical advice is three weeks. I am not doing a lot of training," he said. "I am working on the ankle, doing strengthening exercises. It needs rest more than anything. I think I have had enough operations already.''

Rest, of course, is a commodity not available to international footballers at this stage of the season. "I am not 100 per cent fit but I'm trying to do my best and the manager [Wenger] is happy with what I am producing.

"Playing on it is not supposed to be doing me any long-term damage but I won't really know until I am 50. We have two important World Cup matches [the other is against Poland on 31May] and two very important matches for Arsenal to play.''

Rest is, however, possible in the summer and Adams may have to sacrifice England's trip to France. "I'm taking it game by game but I need to be fit for next season. The break from 10 June [England's last game in France] to the start of July [When Arsenal resume training] does not look very long."

Next year promises much for Arsenal but Adams, while optimistic, is making no rash claims. "It is not the Arsenal way. We've never said `we'll be the team next year'." But he adds: "We are nearly there. The quality is as good as the 1991 team which only lost once in the League. Who knows what will happen next year?''

Who knows indeed. When, like Adams, you are taking things a day at a time, a season is a long way off.