Football: Adams refuses to buckle in defence

England revelations: Shearer's claims dismissed in an impressive performance by a player not afraid to speak his mind
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The Independent Online
By Clive White

THERE WAS no backtracking, no regrets from Tony Adams yesterday about either his book or the timing of it. The idea, put forward by the England captain, Alan Shearer, that the furore surrounding his book and that of the national coach, Glenn Hoddle, had contributed to England's downfall in Stockholm was summarily dismissed by the Arsenal man - though he made a point of differentiating between the two tomes.

Introduced to the media at yesterday's launch at Highbury of Addicted (Collins Willow; pounds 16.99) "as the former England captain, Arsenal Double winning captain and best-selling author, Tony Adams", he made it clear he would not be attempting to defend Hoddle's literary effort. "I've not read his book," he said, "but I've put a lot of time and effort into this book - 18 months - and am very proud of it. I can't answer whether his book is better than mine but I'm doing it from the right place and for the right motives and being honest."

The inference was clear: his was a serious piece of work, with honourable intentions, as opposed to that of Hoddle, whose book is already high in the best-sellers' list.

After what the reformed alcoholic has been through, the idea that mere words could play a part in how a professional footballer - indeed an international footballer - performed was beyond...words. After a long pause in answer to the question raised about Shearer's observation, he said: "All I can say is that no article has affected the way I play. I go out there to do my best, to try to play football. Obviously sometimes I don't play well, but I can honestly say no book or article could affect the way I do my job. Besides, there's always something going on in the media during England build-ups."

When pressed further and asked whether his England team-mates had spoken to him about the book Adams responded sharply: "They were fine - we had other things to talk about, like I said to them, `Stefan Schwarz is playing and he's a very good player and be careful, he's got a great left foot and he can control a game if you give him time'. Now that's got more of a bearing on whether you win or lose a game."

Any suggestion that he no longer cared enough about England was also given short shrift. "I was very sad about the Stockholm result - and that's a positive thing for me," he said. Clearly harping back to the days when alcoholism left him oblivious to what was going on around him. He still believes he has a year or two to offer at international level, the old ankles and knees notwithstanding.

Adams cut a relaxed, confident figure in his polo shirt and dishevelled hair and he was ready to field any question put to him in a much more articulate fashion than many give professional footballers credit for. He made it clear that he would not be benefiting financially from the book and that the advance he had received would be shared between his parents (who had had to put up with what he called "secondary fame" all these years) and an alcoholics' clinic.

"I don't need the money," he said. "I just needed to get rid of all the rubbish, get rid of all the wreckage of the past and spread the message that there are traps out there but that there is a way out. I don't want to be on a crusade, I'm not trying to cure the world."

Adams said he regularly warned the apprentices at Arsenal about the dangers of drug and alcoholism, although he felt that many of the young people coming into the sport had a much more dedicated outlook than when he started. In those days he said: "Football and drink went hand in hand." He hinted that he might do more work with the young when his playing days were over.

He described himself as "a control freak" which made it all the more difficult for him to accept his drink problem and for him to reach out for help until he became "sick and tired of being sick and tired. I'd had enough. I'd thrown the towel in which was unusual because it went against everything I'd learned, `you don't throw the towel in, you're a winner, Tony'."

He was proud of his willpower but in this situation it was of no use to him. As his friend and colleague Paul Merson said to him once: "Have you ever tried stopping diarrhoea?"

Adams defended any criticism he made of the England coach in his book and insisted their relationship had not been damaged. "It was never my intention to hurt Glenn and I think in the book I've given a balanced opinion of the man. I've got total respect for him. He has great faith and he's true to himself. It was positive, constructive criticism. I've listened [to him] and learned, and I'm sure he has done the same with me. It was unfortunate that I didn't have control of when the serialisation [in the Sun] came out. I couldn't have written this before - two years ago I was still drinking - and I had to wait until the World Cup was over to finish off the last chapter. It had to go out sometime and it got to the biggest readership - I had good motives. I knew it would be reviewed negatively but not as negatively as it has been."

When the time comes to retire Adams will take a year off from the game and study his options - he was impressed with the way that his Arsenal team-mate David Platt had sorted out his future. "I'm spending a Christmas at home, my family deserve that after all these years and then I might take up skiing - my old knees willing."