Bearpit brings best out of Adkins

Southampton's relentlessly optimistic manager can't wait for the renewal of a hostile local rivalry

Harry Redknapp famously cancelled Christmas for his Portsmouth players after a derby defeat by Southampton on 21 December, 2003. Today another Yuletide could be ruined for half of Hampshire as one of the fiercest rivalries in football is resumed at Fratton Park, where 250 police will attempt to keep order.

Not, you might think, the sort of bearpit atmosphere that a managerwould fancy after losing his last two away games. But that would be to reckon without the relentless positivity of Nigel Adkins.

The Southampton manager takes his Championship leaders along the M27 for the first League meeting with Portsmouth since 2005, when the Saints, on a downward spiral that would lead to administration and League One, lost a Premier League match 4-1. If his team's recent stumble and Portsmouth's improving form under Michael Appleton, their new manager, causes Adkins any fear of a repeat, it does not show.

"It's going to be a special game with two sets of passionate supporters," he said. "In any race, the leader is there to be chased down, and we embrace that challenge. I did it at Scunthorpe [in League One]. We hit top spot on the first of January and stayed there all season so being at the front of a League campaign and winning it is nothing new to me. We did it at Bangor City as well."

What is remarkable about Adkins'success in management is that, between those spells at Bangor – two League of Wales titles – and Scunthorpe, he spent a decade as the Lincolnshire club's physiotherapist before succeeding Brian Laws in 2006. "I wasn't looking to get back into management, I enjoyed being part of the backroom staff, but I was more or less told 'You're going to be the manager'," he said. "I throw myself100 per cent into everything I do, so I said to myself I was going to be the best manager I could be. I was the best physio I could be."

The use of the first person singular is untypical – usually everything is about "We," and for good reason. "Having been a physiotherapist, a goalkeeping coach, the fitness coach, with your manager's hat on you've got to embrace all those different departments and get everybody to work together. If you are together as one you can get the best for the football club." Of course, it takes more than a positive outlook to succeed, just as there is more to Adkins than the David Brent manager-speak of which he is sometimes accused. A further clue to his inclusive approach is that his earliest managerial influence was another coaching collective, the famed boot room at Liverpool, where he was a schoolboy goalkeeper.

"We moved some gear the other week, some scrapbooks, and I found my schoolboy signing-on form signed by Bob Paisley. So I had a good grounding, we were privileged there with Bob Paisley as the manager, Ronnie Moran, Joe Fagan, Reuben Bennett..."

Added to that grounding has been a voracious desire to absorb ideas. "When I was younger I used to video all the interviews of managers, just to pick up different things that they were talking about. Over the years I've read a lot of things, I've been on all the courses, physiotherapy, fitness, coaching, you go and meet people and try to get the greatest wealth of knowledge possible, so that when you're placed in the situation that we are now, you've got more arrows in the quiver to deal with the situation that arises."

Performances are analysed but defeats are not dwelt on, and his players feel the benefit. "He doesn't leave a stone unturned in his preparation," England Under-21 winger Adam Lallana said. "Everyone knows where they stand and from a player's point of view we all like it."

Appleton is only four games into his first managerial job, but is highly rated as a coach and back-to-back wins suggest his team will put aside their financial difficulties to test their visitors. "We can't affect any of that, but if we can give some optimism back to the fans then it takes their mind off it," he said. "Every team we play will know they've been in a game of football. They will have to work their socks off to win." Christmas itself could be at stake.

Portsmouth v Southampton is on BBC1 today, kick-off 1pm

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup