No excuses as Adams plots Foxes' comeback

The Leicester City manager feels the pressure after a poor start raises the spectre of a second consecutive relegation. <i><b>Glenn Moore</b></i> reports
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It is warm in Micky Adams' office and not just because the late summer sunshine has been baking the picture window while the Leicester City manager took training. The blinds are now up but they can only block out the sun, not the knowledge that, with the season barely a month old, the heat is rising for the management brotherhood.

It is warm in Micky Adams' office and not just because the late summer sunshine has been baking the picture window while the Leicester City manager took training. The blinds are now up but they can only block out the sun, not the knowledge that, with the season barely a month old, the heat is rising for the management brotherhood.

In the Premiership Sir Bobby Robson and Paul Sturrock have been shown the door while in the Championship another former international coach, Scotland's Craig Brown, was dismissed at Preston.

Since Preston are in the top half it was a sacking which concentrated several minds, not least of those of Adams and his equivalents at the other relegated clubs, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leeds United. The relegated trio are usually fancied to bounce straight back up but they have managed just two wins between them from 18 fixtures. As a result each are, like fellow pre-season favourites Sunderland and Nottingham Forest, in the bottom eight.

"There's a lot of under-pressure managers out there," said Adams when we met this week. They would appear to include the 42-year-old Yorkshireman, given such recent Leicester Mercury headlines as "Keep the faith" (an Adams catchphrase), "We'll find a way out of our slump" and "The next match will be like a fresh start". A supporters' poll suggests more than two-thirds believe promotion is already unachievable.

"I'm under pressure but two years ago there was more pressure," he said referring to Leicester's previous stay at this level, during which the club was in administration. "I had to get us back up then. No ifs and buts. I had to. What I am experiencing now is disappointing because my record is as good as anybody's in this division, I've done it. So I'm disappointed, but I understand it."

Adams is not one of those gregarious managers like Harry Redknapp or Joe Kinnear, always ready to josh with the media, but he is usually affable. This time there is a wariness, a tension about him which reflects the poor start. But there is also a determination to confront critics head-on.

There are mitigating circumstances, but it is I who offer them, not Adams - "I'm not an excuses man". Relegation brought an enforced clear-out of the squad. Of the 30 men who appeared for Leicester in the Premiership only 10 remain. Eleven players have been signed including Martin Keown and Dion Dublin, but only David Connolly required a fee.

"I think people in and around the club understand we have virtually a new team which will take time to gel," Adams said. "We've had injuries, but they are excuses and I'm not interested in excuses. The facts are we have started poorly, nobody will deny that. It's not the start we wanted and we're disappointed but it is only six games in. I'm sure we'll find our feet sooner rather than later."

Adams' confidence is rooted in a track record which features promotion success with Fulham, Brighton and Leicester. He also has experience of tougher times to sustain him, notably a brutal axing at Fulham and difficult stints at Swansea and Brentford.

Then there was the "La Manga incident" in March. As a break from Leicester's relegation struggle Adams took the squad to Spain. It backfired when nine players were arrested after three women made rape allegations. All charges were dropped, but not before three players spent a week in jail and the club were dragged through the media mill.

"I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy," Adams said. "I tried to paper over the cracks, telling everybody, 'This could galvanise us', but it had a massive effect. It could have happened to anybody, but happened to us and we had to deal with it. We didn't duck it, we confronted it."

There was a knock-on effect too. Any new squad needs time to gel and the bonding process is traditionally accelerated by a pre-season tour. Leicester undertook one, to Finland, Estonia and Scotland, but before they left the players were reminded of the new realities of life as a professional footballer.

"Football has changed dramatically, a lot of clubs and managers learned a lot from our episode last year," Adams said. "Now if we are going to have a drink as a group, which is infrequently, we never do it in the public gaze.

"Footballers are very well paid now, they are high-profile and have to behave themselves. We still had to do that when I was a player, but we could let our hair down." Not that Adams would be encouraging the regular "bonding" sessions he had. "In my day it would be Saturday night, Sunday dinnertime, Tuesday or Wednesday night. It was the norm. Not any more. When I played I could not understand sometimes why I felt a bit tired or jaded. Now we know more about fitness I think, 'Maybe it was because of that'."

Adams' playing days began with Gillingham where he was a contemporary of Steve Bruce. He then had almost a decade at the highest level with Coventry City, Leeds United and Southampton. He has been player-manager [at Fulham], caretaker manager [at Nottingham Forest] and assistant manager [to Dave Bassett, now Leicester's director of football, at Forest and Leicester]. It has been a long apprenticeship, so what does he think of the possibility of Sir Clive Woodward being parachuted into a managerial role at Southampton - with whom he was linked before Sturrock was appointed?

"I think it is a good concept. There's nothing to say you have got to have played the game to be a successful manager. The game is about trying to get wins, no matter how. Whether you use psychology or tactics you have to get respect from players. You get that either by improving them, or showing them how to get wins. They'll respect you for that: it means more in their wages packet in win bonuses. If Sir Clive can be a good manager by bringing in some of the things he has implemented in rugby, then why knock him until he has been given a go?"

It is an unexpected answer but Adams, like many modern managers, is open-minded. On his desk, alongside the usual football reference books, is an American book on the philosophy of management. He continued: "Football managers used to do everything: fitness, scouting, diets. Now you get a support team around you that deals with this so you don't have to. But you still have to put that team together.

"At Fulham there was me, Alan Cork as assistant, and a youth team manager. That was it. Now I have me, Harry [Dave Bassett], Corky, Peter Shirtliff with the reserves, two youth managers, a youth director, two physios, a fitness and conditioning man, a video analysis and psychology man, and a dietician. I've a lot of staff." All of which frees up Adams for the part of the job he loves best - "getting out there with the players, the coaching". The way he conducts it may, he admitted, have come as a shock to some of his new recruits, Keown.

"Martin's learning he's not at Arsenal any more; he's not surrounded by the best players in the world. I'm not saying he does but it would be easy for him to think, 'Well, Arsène Wenger never loses his temper with his players. He's very cool, calm and collected, and he talks softly, softly and says, "Patrick, Thierry, do you think you could you do this slightly different?"' Whereas I sometimes have to raise my voice to make my point. Martin is finding there are different ways to skin a cat. When you've been in a highly successful operation as he has that might be frustrating." As Keown worked under George Graham, shouting is unlikely to shock; instead the contrast should benefit his own managerial ambitions.

The insight into the financial realities of the game at this level must be useful. By the standards of the division Leicester are a big club but, despite reporting a £5.3m profit yesterday morning, they remain in significant debt. "It is a closer division than it was," Adams said, "and we've been drawn back towards the others. Two years ago we had an £18m wage bill; we've half that now."

Adams can still field 11 internationals, so home defeats to Watford and Brighton have been an unpleasant surprise. Today's match at bottom-table Rotherham ought to bring a win, but Adams is taking nothing for granted. "There have been games out there I thought were winnable and we should have won, but we haven't. I respect everybody.

"I think on paper we've signed some decent players but, unfortunately, they're lacking in confidence. But that can change in a matter of seconds in football. I genuinely believe we just need one result and it will kick-start us."

It is the classic mantra of a manager under pressure but there is a difference. Such is Adams' stock within the club he will be given time to turn things around, if not this season, next. Adams, though, is keen to maintain his current high reputation. The pressure is largely self-inflicted, but no less real for that.