Football: Adams' life turns full circle

Stephen Brenkley finds the discarded manager of Fulham in a mood to meet again
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The Independent Online
Micky Adams goes back to Craven Cottage on Tuesday. If it is not the return of the Messiah it is probably as near as there has been at Fulham since Johnny Haynes was strutting his visionary stuff there. Last season Adams became the first manager for 15 years to guide a Fulham team to promotion. There was a rare and obvious rapport not only between manager and players but between manager and fans. This season he was sacked.

In a football world long since gone barmy it took some believing. Fulham had suddenly come into money in the form of the millions that the new owner Mohamed Al Fayed was able to provide. After an unspectacular but hardly disastrous start in their new Second Division surroundings it was decided that Adams was not the man to spend them. He was out and the new management team of Kevin Keegan and Ray Wilkins were in.

"It is the business we are in, we all know that, I harbour no bitterness towards Fulham," said Adams on Friday as he reflected on the unpredictable path his life in football had taken. "I was sacked as a successful manager which is not something you necessarily expect. It was the first time it had happened to me and it does affect you psychologically. I knew I'd been successful but I'd still been sacked."

Nor did matters take a turn for the smooth. Adams, on the strength of his 20 months in charge at Fulham, was swiftly hired by Swansea. He lasted 13 days. "I was told things in a meeting that I didn't expect to hear and decided it wasn't a situation I could live with," he said. He walked out, this time a voluntary member of football's well-stocked scrapheap. But within three weeks the phone went again. Brentford wanted Adams to bail them out of trouble near the foot of the Second. Which is where Fulham come in. The sides meet in a league match this week.

"My sole thoughts are of getting three points for my new football family, Brentford," he said. "It doesn't matter that it's Fulham." The charming diplomacy of his smile - he smiles a lot - suggested the opposite but he was content to cast his former club in the role of favourites. "They've got the millions and the players and we shouldn't be able to compete against them." Do not believe for a moment that this is what he will be telling his men.

"I don't think that Ray Wilkins has proved any more as a manager than I have but I genuinely wish both him and Kevin well at Fulham. We still speak and have done often. Actually, I didn't think it will be as easy for them as has been made out.

"I can't dwell on what happened to me but I had a superb relationship with the fans. They appreciated what I did for them and I've got a lot of time for people there. I don't think the goodwill will go as far as fans hoping that my team get three points off them. It is against Brentford after all, a derby."

Adams will concede only that he has learned a thing or two and will be warier in future. "The hours are long, you're always on the road, you have sleepless nights. But you're judged by results. I consider myself lucky. There are only 92 managers in the Football League and I can tell you when you're out of work you're looking at the results of the teams near the bottom in case something's about to crop up. For every vacancy there are 200, maybe 300 dying to do the job."

Adams was 36 earlier this month and possesses the self- belief in his tactical and motivational ability. He spoke warmly of Ian Branfoot under whose guidance he learned much, first as a player at Southampton and then at Fulham ("one of the very best coaches and I don't know why chairman aren't queueing up for him") but is aware he is now on his own "in the loneliest job there is and one everybody else knows they can do better".

His short-term objective at Brentford can only be safety in the division. He has already re-shaped the team and the system. His long-term aim is promotion and beyond that the summit as a manager. But however far he goes and no matter how much he smiles he will always give Fulham a backward glance. That is not being a football manager, that is being human.