Tony Adams (footballer)

Tony Adams (footballer)
Tony Adams
Adams, Tony.jpg
Personal information
Full name Tony Alexander Adams
Date of birth 10 October 1966 (1966-10-10) (age 45)
Place of birth Romford, England
Height 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Playing position Defender
Youth career
1980–1983 Arsenal
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1983–2002 Arsenal 504 (32)
National team
1976–1977 England U-21 12 (3)
1976–1977 England B 15 (7)
1987–2000 England 66 (5)
Teams managed
2003–2004 Wycombe Wanderers
2008–2009 Portsmouth
2010–2011 Gabala
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Tony Alexander Adams, MBE (born 10 October 1966 in Romford, Essex) is an English football manager and former player.

Adams spent his entire playing career of 22 years as a defender at Arsenal.[1] He is considered one of the greatest Arsenal players of all time by the club's own fans[2] and was included in the Football League 100 Legends. With Arsenal, he won four top flight division titles, three FA Cups, two Football League Cups, a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, and three FA Community Shields.

When his playing career finished Adams went into football management, spending periods in charge of Wycombe Wanderers, Portsmouth and Azerbaijan side Gabala.


Club career

Adams grew up in Dagenham and was a pupil at Hunters Hall Primary School from 1971 to 1978 and then Eastbrook Comprehensive School from 1978 to 1983.[citation needed]

Adams signed for Arsenal as a schoolboy in 1980. He made his first team début on 5 November 1983 against Sunderland in the First Division, four weeks after his 17th birthday. Adams became a regular player in the 1985–86 season, winning his first major trophy in 1987 when playing in the Football League Cup Final win over Liverpool at Wembley.

Together with Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn and Steve Bould, Adams was part of the "famous four" that lined up in Arsenal's defence, which under George Graham was renowned for its well-disciplined use of the offside trap. On 1 January 1988, he became Arsenal captain at the age of 21;[3] he would remain club captain for the next 14 years until his retirement.

Adams's strong discipline of the defence was considered a factor in Arsenal winning the League Cup in 1986–87 and then the First Division championship twice; the first in 1988–89 after a win over Liverpool in the final game of the season against Liverpool; the second in 1990–91, losing once all season.

In 1992–93 Adams gained the distinction of being the captain of the first English side to win the League Cup and FA Cup double, lifting the European Cup Winners' Cup the following year.

Despite this success, a battle with alcoholism, which started in the mid-1980s, increasingly blighted his life as he was reportedly often involved in fights in nightclubs. On 6 May 1990, Adams crashed his Ford Sierra into a wall near his house in Southend-on-Sea, and when breathalysed he was found to be more than 27 times over the legal drink-drive limit. On 19 December that year, at Southend Crown Court,[4] he was imprisoned for four months (being freed after half of his sentence on 15 February 1991) but after being released, his alcoholism continued and he was involved in further alcohol-related incidents, including playing through a match during the 1993–94 season despite being drunk, falling down stairs and needing 29 stitches to a head wound when drunk, and letting off fire extinguishers and firing a flare gun into a disabled lavatory with team-mate Ray Parlour at Pizza Hut in Hornchurch, Essex where they were being taunted by supporters of rival clubs.

Finally, on 14 September 1996, Adams admitted to the public that he was an alcoholic and, after seeking treatment, found a more sensitive side to his character emerging, which included a return to education and an attempt to learn the piano. He became one of the most high-profile recovering alcoholics in the UK;[5] his battle with alcohol is detailed in his autobiography, Addicted, which was released in May 1998 to enormous critical acclaim.[5]

His recovery and rehabilitation were helped in no small part by the arrival of Arsène Wenger as Arsenal manager in October 1996. Wenger reformed the club's dietary practices and the players' lifestyles. Wenger stuck by Adams following his confessions about his drink problem, and the improvements in the regime probably extended Adams's career by several years. Adams rewarded his manager's understanding handsomely, captaining the club to two Premiership and FA Cup Doubles, in 1997–98 and 2001–02; he is the only player in English football history to have captained a title-winning team in three different decades.

In August 2002, just before the start of the 2002–03 season, Adams retired from professional football after a career spanning almost 20 years, his last match being the last league game of the season at home to Everton (the 2002 FA Cup Final was unusually played before the last league fixtures). He played 668 matches for Arsenal (only David O'Leary has played more) and was the most successful captain in the club's history. The number 6 shirt that Adams wore when playing was not used again until the 2006–07 season, when it was assigned to Philippe Senderos.

Just before his retirement as a player, Adams had applied to become manager of Brentford (who had just missed out on promotion to Division One) after the resignation of Steve Coppell, but his application was rejected.[6]

Nicknamed "Mr Arsenal", he was honoured by Arsenal with a testimonial game against Celtic in May 2002 with many Arsenal legends playing, including Ian Wright, John Lukic and Adams's fellow back four stalwarts, Dixon, Winterburn and Bould. The game finished 1–1 with Lee Dixon, in his final appearance for the Gunners, getting their goal.

In March 2003, just seven months after his retirement and with Arsenal BBC Sport named Adams as the former Arsenal player that the club would most benefit from returning.[7]

In 2004, Adams was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his impact on the English game, and in 2008 he was placed third in the 50 Greatest Gunners poll on the club's website.

International career

Adams made his debut for England against Spain in 1987, and played in Euro 88, scoring one of England's two goals. He was the first player to represent England who had been born after the 1966 World Cup win.

After a highly promising start to his international career, Adams suffered a series of setbacks during the early 1990s. He was surprisingly left out of the 1990 FIFA World Cup squad by manager Bobby Robson, and missed Euro 92 due to injury. However, he still maintained a regular place in defence, and after the retirement of Gary Lineker in 1992, Adams unofficially shared the captaincy of England with David Platt, though Adams became England captain outright before Euro 96, as Platt's place in the side became less secure. England reached the semi-finals of Euro 96, before losing on penalties to Germany.

When England manager Glenn Hoddle took the Captain's armband from Adams and gave it to Alan Shearer it was a bitter pill for Adams to swallow. Speaking at a fans' forum in 2008 Adams remarked "I have some resentment over the way Glenn Hoddle gave the captaincy to Alan Shearer instead of me but I can let that go. I reacted positively. I disagreed with him [Hoddle] and he thought Alan could get more penalties being a centre forward. People know my reaction to that".[citation needed]

Adams continued to play for the national side, however and he finally appeared in a World Cup finals in 1998. His international swansong was England's largely unsuccessful Euro 2000 campaign. With Shearer retiring from international football after the tournament, Adams regained the captaincy. However, within months, England lost a World Cup qualifier to Germany in October 2000, the match being the last to be staged at Wembley Stadium before the stadium was torn down for rebuilding. That match was Adams's 60th Wembley appearance, a record. With Sven-Göran Eriksson eventually taking the helm and under increasing pressure for his place from the emerging and improving Rio Ferdinand, Adams retired from international football before Eriksson picked his first squad. He was the last England player to score at the old Wembley Stadium when he scored England's second goal in a 2–0 friendly win over Ukraine on 31 May 2000. This was also his first goal since he scored in a friendly against Saudi Arabia in November 1988, thus making the record for the longest gap between goals for England.

In total Adams appeared 66 times for England, scoring 5 times.[8]

Managerial and coaching career

After starting a sports science degree at Brunel University, Adams became the manager of Wycombe Wanderers in November 2003. He was unable to prevent the club's relegation to League Two that season, and although the club were top of the table in August 2004, a loss of form saw them fall down the table.[9] He resigned from Wycombe in November 2004, citing personal reasons. He was succeeded by John Gorman.

In July 2005, Adams accepted a trainee coaching role with Dutch side Feyenoord with special responsibility for its Jong team, which is a reserve/junior side. Adams later had a short spell seconded to Utrecht as a first team trainee coach in January and February 2006. While at Feyenoord he also worked part-time as a scout for Arsenal, watching games in Italy, France, and the Netherlands.[10]

Adams joined Portsmouth as assistant manager to Harry Redknapp in June 2006, a position left vacant by the departure of Kevin Bond. In his first season as assistant, Portsmouth finished ninth in the Premier League – their highest standing since the 1950s and won the 2007–08 FA Cup. Adams was appointed caretaker manager of Portsmouth in October 2008, alongside Joe Jordan,[11] following the departure of Harry Redknapp to Tottenham Hotspur. He was subsequently appointed full-time manager.[11][12] He was sacked in February 2009 after just 16 games in charge in which Portsmouth picked up only 10 points.[13]

In May 2010, Adams signed a three-year contract to manage Azerbaijani club Gabala FC of the Azerbaijan Premier League.[14] A surprising decision which Adams justified as a unique opportunity to start from zero to build a successful football club. However, he departed as coach of Gabala due to family reasons on 16 November 2011, before the end of the 2011–12 season.

Charitable work

In September 2000, as a result of his own experiences with alcoholism and drug addiction, Adams founded the Sporting Chance Clinic, a charitable foundation aimed at providing treatment, counselling and support for sports men and women suffering from drink, drug or gambling addictions.[15] The clinic, which works to the twelve-step programme philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous is based near Liphook in Hampshire and includes Kate Hoey, Alex Rae and Elton John as patrons, and is supported by the Professional Footballers Association. Adams's former Arsenal and England team mate Paul Merson, himself a recovering alcoholic, is also a patron of the charity.

His Arsenal testimonial match helped raise £500,000 for his charity,[1] the Sporting Chance Clinic.


England Arsenal







Season Club Division League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other[17] Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
1983–84 Arsenal First Division 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
1984–85 16 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 18 0
1985–86 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 10 0
1986–87 42 6 4 0 9 0 0 0 0 0 55 6
1987–88 39 2 4 0 8 0 0 0 0 0 51 2
1988–89 36 4 2 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 43 4
1989–90 38 5 3 0 4 0 0 0 1 0 46 5
1990–91 30 1 3 1 4 2 0 0 0 0 37 4
1991–92 35 2 1 0 3 0 4 0 1 0 44 2
1992–93 Premier League 35 0 8 2 9 0 0 0 0 0 52 2
1993–94 35 0 3 2 3 0 8 1 1 0 50 0
1994–95 27 3 1 0 4 1 10 0 2 0 44 4
1995–96 21 1 2 0 5 2 0 0 0 0 28 3
1996–97 28 3 3 0 3 0 1 0 0 0 35 3
1997–98 26 3 6 0 2 0 2 0 0 0 36 3
1998–99 26 1 5 0 0 0 4 1 1 0 36 2
1999–2000 21 0 1 1 0 0 11 0 0 0 33 1
2000–01 26 1 4 1 0 0 8 0 0 0 38 2
2001–02 10 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 13 1
Total 504 32 54 8 60 5 48 3 6 0 672 48

International goals

Num Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 11 November 1987 Stadion Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, SFR Yugoslavia  Yugoslavia 4–1 Win Euro 1988 qualifying
2 23 March 1988 Wembley Stadium, London, England  Netherlands 2–2 Draw Friendly
3 18 June 1988 Waldstadion, Frankfurt, West Germany  Soviet Union 1–3 Loss Euro 1988
4 16 November 1988 King Fahd International Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia  Saudi Arabia 1–1 Draw Friendly
5 31 May 2000 Wembley Stadium, London, England  Ukraine 2–0 Win Friendly


Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Wycombe Wanderers England 5 November 2003 9 November 2004 53 12 21 20 22.64
Portsmouth1 England 26 October 2008 8 February 2009 22 4 7 11 18.18
Gabala Azerbaijan 11 May 2010 16 November 2011 37 15 14 8 40.54
Total 112 31 42 39 27.68
As of 01 October 2010

1 Adams first game as manager of Portsmouth (a 1–1 draw with Fulham) was in the role of joint caretaker manager alongside Joe Jordan, and prior to his appointment as full manager of the club.

In popular culture

In the 1997 motion picture The Full Monty, Horse (played by Paul Barber) specifically mentions Adams while attempting to explain that a particular part in their dance routine was similar to the "Arsenal offside trap."

In the debut album Rock Art and the X-Ray Style by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, the opening track is named 'Tony Adams'.

Adams remains a popular figure with Arsenal fans. In December 2008, more than six years after he left the club, Adams led out his Portsmouth side onto the pitch at Arsenal to be greeted with the chant "There's only one Tony Adams" by Arsenal fans.[18]

On 30 December 2009 Adams was the guest editor on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Ali in the Jungle" a song by the English rock band The Hours, refers to him in its lyrics.[19]

In the series of books "Cherub", protagonist James Adams changes his last name in honour of the Arsenal legend in order to maintain an undercover identity.

See also

  • One-club man


  1. ^ a b Brodkin, Jon (2002-05-14). "A night out for the Adams family". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  2. ^ "Referendum: Is Thierry Henry Arsenal's greatest ever player?". Arsenal Land. 
  3. ^ (5–19 May 2008). "Gunners' Greatest Players – 3. Tony Adams". Official Arsenal Website. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Paul Whittaker (March 1998). "Adams turns his back on alcohol". Alcohol Works. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  6. ^ "Brentford snub Adams". London: BBC Sport. 27 June 2002. Retrieved 8 January 2009. 
  7. ^ "Blast from the past: Part one". BBC News. 24 March 2003. 
  8. ^ "Tony Alexander Adams – International Appearances". Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  9. ^ "Adams resigns as Wycombe manager". BBC Sport (London). 9 November 2004. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b Ashdown, John (2008-10-28). "Adams set to be unveiled as new Portsmouth manager". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  12. ^ "Adams appointed new Pompey boss". BBC (London). 2008-10-28. Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  13. ^ Ron Parrish (2008-02-09). "Pompey confirm Adams axe". Sky Sports News.,19528,11661_4906973,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-11. 
  14. ^ "Tony Adams' grand plans for Azerbaijan football club". BBC. 11 May 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  15. ^ Sengupta, Kim (2000-08-21). "Tony Adams to provide safe haven for alcoholic and drug-addict footballers". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  16. ^ "Tony Adams". Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  17. ^ Includes other competitive competitions, including the FA Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup
  18. ^ Cass, Simon. "Arsenal 1 Portsmouth 0: Same old song as Adams falls short". Daily Mail (London). 
  19. ^

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Kenny Sansom
Arsenal Captain
Succeeded by
Patrick Vieira
Preceded by
David Platt
England Captain
Succeeded by
Alan Shearer
Preceded by
Alan Shearer
England Captain
October 7, 2000
Succeeded by
David Beckham

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