Adams rooted to old-fashioned style

Tim Collings sees the 'new' England captain stand a test of time
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The Independent Online

The retirement of Alan Shearer from international football may have given England a sleeker and more flexible look in attack at the Stade de France last night, but one only had to glance at the "Oak of Agincourt" wearing the captain's armband to see that little had changed in the England defence.

The retirement of Alan Shearer from international football may have given England a sleeker and more flexible look in attack at the Stade de France last night, but one only had to glance at the "Oak of Agincourt" wearing the captain's armband to see that little had changed in the England defence.

In his second coming as captain, Tony Adams showed that he had no intention of seeing such fashionable modernism as three across the rear affect the solidity of the national backguard. Four square and flat, with an offside trap, we shall not be moved.

On the night he collected his 65th England cap in his 14th season as an international, Adams, 34 on 10 October, demonstrated his greatest qualities (bravery, leadership and strength) and all his limitations (lack of pace and technical variety) before a cut ankle ended his participation at the interval.

In contrast to Laurent Blanc, an indestructible 34-year-old whose career saw him emerge as an elegant and thoughtful stopper, Adams had looked like a man from another era, perhaps the days of black-and-white television and laced-up balls, before Didier Deschamps, late but not suspicious, caught him on a typically courageous foray.

It was sad, for Adams, that his 14th appearance as England's captain, leader and totem ended so prematurely, but for those neutrals (including many admirers of his great patriotism and passion) seeking to find evidence that England can play with flair and vision from the back there was ironic encouragement in seeing Gareth Southgate, a naturally thoughtful player whose career foundations were laid in midfield, take his place. Blanc, after all, is another reformed wing-half who passed his way towards glory with a French squad who have won everything. In gratitude, they nick-named him "the president".

Yet, Adams' case for inclusion as captain was strong since his leadership qualities alone appeared to give England a rare sense of confidence and purpose. Gareth Barry's polished debut was as much due to Adams' presence, and help as his own excellent talent and temperament, and proved there is more to the team game than individual performances.

Adams had said he wanted to help England regain some pride and, in that, he succeeded. In his 45-minute cameo, he and Martin Keown (England's outstanding player at Euro 2000) creaked occasionally, but more often anticipated and tackled with masterful judgement, restricting Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry to morsels. Alas, they also showed a glaring lack of pace and were often exposed for that. Adams, also, was unable to avoid being caught in physically-damaging clashes with Marcel Desailly and Deschamps, either side of a push on Lilian Thuram, when the French began to shake off the rust of the summer break and the festive preparations in which they indulged prior to this "friendly" fixture.

It was ironic, too, that Adams, the "new" England captain, who is building a home in the south of France, should have departed the stage already when Deschamps and Blanc made their theatrical departures. It was a night of changing generations, new arrivals and London rivalries, not to mention the old cross-channel war.

Adams had proved he still has something to offer as a leader in transitional times, but England need more, as the French exposed with their fluency and flair in the second half. Agincourt, after all, was a long time ago.

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