Football: Power struggle haunts the Adams family

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The Independent Online
There are signs that football managers have acquired a new patron saint. The last one was sacked long ago for gross dereliction of duty and there has been no heavenly rush to take on the job. Last week, however, some supernatural force must have been at work. Not effectively enough to save the luckless David Pleat, who was shot at dawn on Monday by the directors of Sheffield Wednesday in reprisal for the 6-1 defeat by Manchester United 36 hours earlier, but enough to tilt the balance back towards this battered band of brothers.

Among those who proved that management can be as much about power as it is about purgatory were Chelsea's Ruud Gullit, Kenny Dalglish of Newcastle United and George Graham of Leeds United, who each frightened the daylights out of their clubs. Many directors are as uncertain how to handle a successful manager as they are in coping with a falterer and Dalglish and Graham caused a frisson of anguish when they were each connected with the forthcoming vacancy at Rangers when Walter Smith moves upstairs at the end of the season. Whether or not there was any truth behind the reports, both were urged rapidly to renounce such a move and neither's contract suffered as a result.

Gullit was also being courted by his own club. A new contract that contains all manner of improvements is waiting to be signed but last week he was teasingly discussing taking a coaching examination next summer. We don't bother with such trivialities in this country but it is an essential qualification for a manager if he wants to work in Holland or Italy where interest in Gullit has been expressed recently.

He then worried Stamford Bridge even further by talking about wanting to see a solid 10-year plan in place at Chelsea with firm fundamentals about producing their own talent instead of frantically diving about the transfer market. In other words, let him see the colour of their intent as well as their money. That's the hallmark of a good manager; the ability to take full advantage of a strong position. It is almost as important as being able to waffle your way out of a weak one.

But not far away from Chelsea was enacted a delicious little scene that was much more convincing of a divine influence at work. Indeed, the appointment of Micky Adams as manager of Brentford has produced a situation that is going to add extra fascination to the Second Division results for the rest of the season.

Seven weeks ago, Adams was happily employed at Craven Cottage having guided Fulham to promotion last season and earning a five-year contract in the process. Then Mohamed Al Fayed took over Fulham and, with the wisdom that only tycoons possess, sacked Adams to make way for Kevin Keegan and Ray Wilkins. Adams had a handsome pay-off and when Swansea City approached him to take over from the deposed Jan Molby it seemed that fate was also offering recompense. But Adams did not display the blind gratitude that most 36-year-olds might have shown in the same circumstance. Swansea have new owners with big plans but Adams took 13 days to decide that they weren't big enough and walked out.

That's either the sign of a rebellious nature or of a young manager who knows exactly what he wants, or both. Struggling Brentford FC felt in need of such qualities and decided to jettison their management team of Eddie May and Clive Walker plus chief executive David Webb to install Adams. It didn't hinder their offer, or his acceptance, that Brentford are in the same division as Fulham and are only about three miles apart, as the crow of retribution flies.

Brentford are paying him less than he was to receive at Swansea but at least he feels that any promises are likely to be kept. "Brentford," he says, "are a bad team but there is potential." He agrees that his new club are paupers compared to Keegan's Fulham but is emboldened to add: "Money can't buy you the team spirit and togetherness I want to achieve here." The teams meet on 2 December and while the game is unlikely to prove anything in the long-term it is a clash of philosophies that every student of football management will await with interest.

The spectre of the sacked manager will be with football for ever. It already haunts rugby league and is hovering over rugby union. In an era when people from every walk of life are being sacked every day for reasons much less flimsy than a sequence of poor results, we no longer have the capacity to be shocked by the managerial casualty rate.

It doesn't help that rich newcomers to any of our team sports have a tendency to be either too callous or too dopey to see the danger of impatience. They should study Manchester United, whose tolerance with earlier splutterings helped to lay the foundation of their present domination is a fine example. Liverpool are also worthy of attention; not only in the way the club are refusing to panic because of unfulfilled dreams but because of the way their supporters are rallying behind them.

If there is a new patron saint on duty, I trust that he will continue to look after the Micky Adamses of our world before the game surrenders totally to the transfer market and persuade the owners that their best weapon is not a trigger-finger but a brave and patient heart.

No Doubt an enterprising tobacco company will soon launch a new brand of fags called Grand Prix, thereby cashing in on all the free publicity that has been floating around since the Government pardoned motor racing from the Draconian clampdown they threaten to impose on advertising cigarettes via sport.

It was a U-turn that Michael Schumacher might have been loath to risk and almost amounts to an endorsement. To those of us who can scarcely be bothered to watch Formula 1 let alone read the names on the mud-guards, it was a shock to discover how much the sport earns from tobacco. Using the means of a quick death to promote the means of a slow one is a unique marketing ploy and shows the skills the anti-smoking campaigners are up against.

The problem is that so many who wish to deride the Government's decision risk a charge of hypocrisy. As long as newspapers, for instance, carry tobacco advertising it is a difficult subject for columnists to fume on about. And if you care to look at the history of sport, you will find nicotine has yellowed the souls of many.

A complete ban is the only answer but it will be a brave country that orders one. Meanwhile, we could do with John Donne being alive to pen a few thoughts on "for whom the doomed cough...".

Football historians will welcome the news that pounds 7 million of lottery money is to go towards setting up a museum devoted to the game. Preston North End, one of the Football League's founder members, is the club chosen to house the museum which will be posterity's guide to the earlier days of a game that old-timers find less recognisable by the year.

Now comes the task of gathering the essential memorabilia that will illustrate this fascinating story. Unfortunately, the Football Association may be restricted in the help they can give. Most of their relics are still sitting on committees.

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