'He's intelligent, articulate and a motivator': Adams takes over at Portsmouth

Cash-strapped club forced to promote from within may have struck gold in choosing Tony Adams. By Nick Harris
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The Independent Online

Cut Tony Adams and he still bleeds Arsenal. Twice yesterday he said as much. He wished Harry Redknapp well in his new job at Tottenham, but voiced his hope that Spurs don't beat Arsenal today. And he did nothing but beam at suggestions that he might, one day, take over at Arsenal.

Given Adams' belief in his own abilities, his remark to Arsène Wenger – "I'm coming for you" – might as easily be interpreted as wanting the Frenchman's job as wanting to beat his old team.

For 22 years as a player, Adams was a one-club loyalist, a serial winner and leader by example, a man's man of a captain from 21 years old. He won four league titles and, uniquely in English football, three in different decades. He won three FA Cups, two League Cups and the Cup-Winners' Cup. He won 66 England caps, and played more times for club and country at Wembley Stadium (60) than any other footballer.

At Highbury he was sent down for drink-driving but went toe to toe with alcoholism in a spirited battle he continues to fight, and win. His commitment to a reformation of character includes his own recovery, and his founding of the Sporting Chance clinic and his continued support of it. It has been as wholehearted as his commitment as a player under George Graham and Wenger before his retirement in 2002.

All of the above should give Pompey fans reasons to be cheerful: when Adams sets his heart on something, he does his utmost to get it. And as the man himself said yesterday: "I'm one of those annoying people who gets back up. Sooner or later I was going to get an opportunity to manage a very good team."

Doubts will persist about an inexperienced individual at this level taking the No 1 job, but that is natural; there are enough precedents to show how tough it can be. Chris Hutchings (Wigan), Sammy Lee (Bolton) and Les Reed (Charlton) all failed, and failed messily, in recent times after being promoted from a No 2 role to the main job in the high-pressure Premier League.

Stuart Gray at Southampton in 2001 was among others who flopped when suddenly promoted without a track record at a top-flight club. Gray's current success at Northampton sees him thriving at a lower level.

Adams' one previous stint as a manager, at Wycombe Wanderers from November 2003 for one year, was a failure, however much anyone tries to airbrush it in retrospect. An albeit underfunded team were relegated and won only 12 of 53 games while Adams was in charge.

"We had no money," he said in his defence yesterday, but unless Adams is being naive in the extreme, he must realise one major reason he has been given the chance at Portsmouth is because they have no money either. That's why Peter Storrie, the chairman, was so delighted to pocket the £5m in compensation from Spurs for Redknapp. And that's why Adams will not be getting any cash to spend on players unless he generates it in sales.

Storrie was unconvincing and disingenuous in trying to dismiss questions about Pompey's poor financial situation as a "boring" subject. He was rather more to the point in letting slip: "If Tony wants to sell, then we'll sell and reinvest that money – and the fans are all aware of the situation."

So Adams, already in situ, already having made clear that he would love the chance to follow Redknapp, already having "cred" as a Portsmouth staff member under Redknapp since 2006, was not only an acceptable appointment, but quicker and cheaper to employ than a more proven manager.

If there is one other doubt over Adams, then it arises as a consequence of him now being a more considerate, insightful human being, perhaps more willing (too willing?) to put his arm around a player to motivate as opposed to bawl in the way he once did in the Arsenal armband.

Nonsense, say his supporters, among them Wenger. "I believe that he has natural authority, which is one important ingredient," Arsenal's manager said yesterday. "The second one is, of course, to convince everybody about the way you see things."

According to Dr Sue Bridgewater of Warwick Business School, Adams has that clear philosophy, and has demonstrated it in the way in which he has gained experience. In 2003, Adams attended the WBS's year-long course on the business of football management. Stuart Pearce is another alumnus of the programme, where the aim is to help fast-track young British managers by teaching management skills to add to their practical playing experience.

"Tony has shown leadership all through his playing career," Dr Bridgewater says. "He's done his management training the right way, too, getting his badges, and experience at different levels, at Wycombe, in the Netherlands, and at Portsmouth.

"He's a motivator of people. He's intelligent and articulate. He's taken his time to study and prepare. He acknowledges he has learnt from managers like Graham and Wenger, but wants to have his own style, too.

"People might argue promoting from within is just cost-effective but I think this could turn out to be the best thing Portsmouth have done."

Top Gunner: Highlights of Adams' career

Tony Alexander Adams MBE

Born: 10 October 1966, Romford

Playing career:

Arsenal 1984-2002, 673 games, 49 goals; 66 caps for England, 5 goals

Honours:

First Division/Premier League: 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002

Cup-Winners' Cup: 1994

FA Cup: 1993, 1998, 2002

League Cup: 1987, 1993

Managerial career:

Coaching roles with Feyenoord youth (2005) and Utrecht (2006).

Wycombe Wanderers (Nov 2003-Nov 2004): P53 W12 D21 L20, Wins 22.6%

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