Firefighter Adams is prepared to take heat at Birmingham

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The Independent Football

When it comes to managerial stereotypes, Micky Adams brands himself a 'firefighter'. Just as well. This week, with three of his players in the dock in Spain on charges of sexual assault and his club convicted in a rush to judgement by sections of the British media, Adams' mobile phone has been close to meltdown.

When it comes to managerial stereotypes, Micky Adams brands himself a 'firefighter'. Just as well. This week, with three of his players in the dock in Spain on charges of sexual assault and his club convicted in a rush to judgement by sections of the British media, Adams' mobile phone has been close to meltdown.

The 43-year-old Leicester City manager has spent much of the past 10 days making and taking calls and texts about the imprisonment of Paul Dickov, Frank Sinclair and Keith Gillespie, who are now back in England following their release on bail. Too much: Adams, needless to say, would rather have used the time to prepare for today's vital Premiership fixture away to a Birmingham side managed by his old ally, Steve Bruce.

Twenty-five years ago, the pair were just starting out at Gillingham. Bonded in the south by northern roots and values - Adams is from Sheffield, Bruce from Tyneside - they grew up together in the old Third Division. According to Bruce, it was a charismatic youth coach at the Kent club, Buster Collins, who instilled the beliefs Adams has drawn upon lately.

Both maintain contact with Collins, who is now 84 and would have been at St Andrew's to watch his pupils pit their wits against each other but for the cold weather. Their own friendship survived Bruce selling Adams a clapped-out car for £200 when they were £12-a-week trainees. The exhaust soon gave out. As the Birmingham manager recalled with a guilty grin, it was held in place by string.

There have been times this week when Leicester, already in the relegation zone and without a victory in 15 games, also looked on the verge of disintegration. That they have held it together, at least until they encounter fifth-placed Birmingham, has been largely due to Adams' leadership.

Some pundits, apparently believing he should have tucked 30-year-old international footballers into bed with a cup of cocoa and patrolled the hotel lobby all night, might argue that it was overdue.

Adams admits he made mistakes, notably by failing to impose a ban on alcohol and perhaps by not enforcing a curfew. Whether or not he could have averted the crisis, his response to it has revealed a dignified and resolute individual. In his view, the issues raised by the players' arrest at La Manga, their incarceration in Murcia and release on bail by the court at Cartagena, are of such a serious nature that it would have been wrong to delegate responsibility.

Yet nothing he learned on any coaching course could have prepared him for the task of contacting the partners of the three players last week to inform them of the lurid allegations. "I rang all the girls [Dickov's wife, Sinclair's fiancée and Gillespie's girlfriend], though at first I didn't tell them the full extent of it,'' he said. "I told them there had been a problem and that obviously their partners were not allowed to ring them.

"But by the following day, the press were fully aware of the charges against the players. The calls then became very, very difficult. But I had to do it. I didn't want to pass the responsibility on to people like my assistant manager, Alan Cork, or the chief executive, Tim Davies.'' In between the calls to Leicester's legal representatives in Spain there were messages of support from football acquaintances and rivals, although Bruce is saving his for when they have a pre-match cuppa today.

Adams has also received backing - and abuse - from anonymous callers. "I don't even know quite a few of the people who have texted me. The question I have to ask myself is how they got my number.'' A smile flickered on his lips as he said it. Adams' resilience, which has served him well in management, is clearly intact. "I've been at a lot of clubs that were at the wrong end of the League table and had no money. It was one problem after another. Since I came here, that's all I've ever faced [Leicester went into administration soon after he took over].

"As a manager you get tagged. Maybe I'm a firefighter and I'll probably never walk into a top-five club with pots of cash to spend. If I'm to be labelled like that, I just have to get on with it and do my best.''

At Fulham he fell foul of Mohamed Al Fayed's desire for a big-name manager, who turned out to be Kevin Keegan. With Swansea, riven by boardroom intrigue and cash-flow problems, he stayed 13 days. He resurfaced at Brentford, only for the chairman, Ron Noades, to appoint himself manager.

After shoestring success at Brighton - whose League status he preserved before leading them to promotion - Adams left to work at Leicester under Dave Bassett, eventually succeeding him two years ago. He was back in Sussex on Wednesday to watch the game with Tranmere.

"I knew I'd get a warm welcome there. Call me a coward, but I was among friends, people that know and respect me.''

The trip was part of his attempt to get back to something approaching business as usual. "I'm bored of seeing myself in the newspapers. I'm not one to court publicity. I don't know whether this will change me, but I just want to be the same as I've always been, working on the training ground trying to get the best out of a group of players.''

Not that Adams has been feeling sorry for himself. He has a brother with cerebral palsy, whose handicap - and love of life - helps him to keep the stresses of football management in perspective.

Events elsewhere in Spain this week have done likewise. "If [the three players] are guilty of anything, it's having a late-night drink - hardly the biggest crime ever committed,'' Adams said, a quiet fire building inside the firefighter. "The Spanish people are having to deal with the loss of nearly 200 lives.''

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