Intimidation is one of the dark arts of greatness. And Tony Adams was a great footballer, a great leader of men. It's 8.02pm on Friday. Bitterly cold, it's the second round of the FA Cup and the new manager of Wycombe Wanderers is arching his body as he tries to relay messages. He's not just arching it, he's almost propelling himself on to the playing surface, fists pumping. It means a lot. Just 3,212 people - including 500 visiting and vocal Mansfield Town fans and the cameras of Sky Sports - are there. Almost every word Adams utters can be heard. The young defender Danny Senda has - rightly - caught his boss's ire. Mistakes are being made and the home side are being over-run by a team a division below them.
It's 10.20pm and Adams, the former Arsenal and England captain, who lifted this trophy just 18 months ago, strides with trademark purpose into a room set aside for media interviews. "Everyone gets shy," he tells the assembled journalists as they hesitate before asking him a question about a game his team should have lost but managed to draw 1-1. "It's difficult, I know from my university days... And I admire anyone who poses a question to me - I'm such an aggressive guy!"
His university days are now behind him - a degree in sports science put on hold at Brunel University in pursuit of another, more elusive goal. Success as a football manager after he took the plunge at the appropriately named Adams Park. "Relieved?" he ponders when asked about the result. "Relieved?" he adds with, this time, a six-second pause. "I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it." Then he ponders again. "Relieved?... Relieved?"
And, finally, he's off. "Yes, I think for 20 minutes in the second half we were encouraging them to come on. We were fortunate to get the counter-attack and get the goal. But I was very up for the game and the players were. I demanded of them today - I said 'Come on. This club has been asleep for too long now', and they gave me 100 per cent. That's all they can do and that's all I can ask."
Not that he is happy. "It gets frustrating... I was working with a guy to cover the far post and in the first minute a great cross comes in from Danny Senda and he's not there; it kind of gets so frustrating and I'm pulling my hair out. Then I tell him again - and he does it. So that pleases me. I will go in again on Monday and prepare for Colchester, do the same things and try to make improvements."
Ah, Colchester United. Another on the Adams learning curve. He had hoped to play - Arsène Wenger-like - the "kids" in one he perceived as a meaningless LDV Trophy tie. Except Colchester, despite the 90-mile journey, are regarded as bitter rivals dating back to the days both were in the Conference. Adams acknowledges it's part of his education. "This job has been everything that I thought," he says. "That's why I'm still here and still battling. I love all of it. Looking at the players, the coaching, the motivating, working with people. The relationships. It's building - trust and honesty."
Playing Mansfield brought him face-to-face with Keith Curle, another former defender who was appointed this time last year - but who didn't prevent the club from being relegated. Adams - with Wycombe bottom of their division - is aware that he may follow suit. "My number one goal, mission, at this club is to stabilise in this division," he says. "It's a hell of a job... but I'm the man for it, I think." He and Curle are on the same League Managers' Association course. "It won't be until after Christmas now," Adams says of their next (academic) meeting. "When assignment three is due... Maybe mine will be 'how to win an FA Cup second round'." It could, indeed, be academic by then.
Adams is undoubtedly a demanding boss - "I tried to intimidate them, that's for sure," he says of the players. "I think they responded positively," he adds. "In the last four weeks..." he tails off before stating "to be honest with you I don't care. I just want them to play. And whether I intimidate them or not then they have to get through that and get out there and do a job or they are going to walk."
So Danny Senda, for example, needs to pull his socks up? "You know. I've tried to make them confident," Adams says. "I've pulled them to one side and said 'Come on, I've supported you out there and given you five games now'. I've showed them things and told them things that I want them to do. If you do them you stay in, if you don't then I'm going to have to find someone else." But he also says: "If I scare Danny Senda then I've got to recognise it and pull up and use a different technique."
It's a conundrum. "If they keep giving me that effort I think we'll be all right but I'm watching players. Through my time here I will be constantly looking to improve the squad - whether it is now or two years down the line. I think every squad needs an injection of youth, turnaround, personnel - maybe they get complacent."
Will he be trying to call on those from Arsenal? "I'd love them. But I don't think Arsène will let me have his stars of the future. I wouldn't. Most of the squad who played in the Carling Cup on Tuesday are pushing for the first team. That's why they're there, why they're being brought through." As for the players at Wycombe - "I think I might need some more," Adams says. "I've got to be fair to all the squad... They've got until Christmas."Reuse content