UK time is: 05:18:50
Vital Login
Social Login

Choose your club

Other Sites

Network Navigation

Vital Partners

'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Mr. Arsenal

When one is looking to construct a series in honour of the biggest trailblazers in Arsenal's history, one has to strike a balance. The side of the 1930s was so dominating, that I had to weight the limited spaces adequately to reflect their incalculable effect on our history. I also had to leave out people like Don Howe, Pat Rice, David Dein and Frank McLintock, but surprise many by including George Eastham. However, there were certain spaces that simply had to be reserved and no compromise. Herbert Chapman, Henry Norris, Liam Brady and this man.

Anthony Alexander Adams was born in Romford on October 10th, 1966. He signed with Arsenal as a schoolboy in 1980 and made a great impression in the youth and reserve teams, belying his age with an on pitch maturity. He made his first team debut aged 17 against Sunderland in 1983. Adams continued to impress, learning his trade ably alongside veteran pros like Anderson, Samson and O'Leary. He was also learning the ways of the mid 80s Arsenal alongisde hardcore boozers like Samson and Woodcock. Graham Rix would advise the teenage Adams to drink Guinness, as "it gets you pissed quicker." Adams suffered a broken leg in 1985, just as he was beginning to establish himself as a first team regular. Tony would discover alcohol's anaesthetical qualities and drink heavily during his rehabilitation. By 1986, Don Howe had been sacked and replaced by stern disciplinarian George Graham. Rix, Woodcock, Mariner and Samson would be given short shrift and ushered towards the exit door. But Tone embellished a new motley crue in the shape of Merson and Groves.

However, on the pitch Adams continued to perform with an authority and reading of the game far in advance of his tender years. In 1987, he bagged his first major honour, playing at Wembley as Arsenal defeated Liverpool 2-1 in the Littlewoods Cup Final. That evening, Adams would slur his way through his acceptance speech as he picked up a personal gong as PFA Young Player of the Year. Things continued to develop on pitch for Adams. In January 1988 he was named club captain at the age of 21, the club's youngest ever full time skipper. He would also earn the distinction of being the first ever England player to be born after England's 1966 World Cup win. Graham purchased some foot soldiers for his new general. Dixon, Winterburn and Bould all arrived in the 1987-88 season. They would be the cornerstone of Arsenal's success for a decade or more.

Euro 88 would prove to be a testing time for Adams. He was named in the England squad and earned some of the press blame for a limp defeat to Eire in the group stage. But it was when the legendary Marco van Basten ran him ragged that the nation turned on him, as England were sent packing having lost all three of their group games. Early in the next season, an own goal against Manchester United would see the Daily Mirror caricature Adams on their back pages with a pair of donkey's ears. It was a taunt that would hit him hard throughout his career, as he was regularly pelted with carrots at away grounds. Though Adams would continue to frequent public bars off the pitch, nobody could question his focus on it. Though Adams and Merson would often turn up to training with bin bags under their tracksuits to sweat out the previous evening's excess. He would captain his young side to an extraordinary title win in 1988-89, with the Gunners grabbing a last gasp victory at Anfield which secured their first title for 18 years.

Adams would again turn to alcohol to assuage his disappointment in the summer of 1990, when he was surprisingly omitted from Bobby Robson's final World Cup squad. Despite imperious form on the pitch, Adams was careering towards self destruction off it and the powder keg exploded in May 1990. Adams crashed into a neighbour's wall in his native Southend on Sea, the breathalyser showed him to be four times over the legal limit. On December 15th, 1990, Tony was sentenced to four months in Bellmarsh prison. He was released on February 15th, 1991 and played in Arsenal's run in as they sauntered to another title- despite having been docked two points in October of that season. 1990 would see custodian David Seaman signed to sweep up for Adams and his troops. The relationship between the two would be formidable, their trust in one another's abilities implicit.

But in 1992, Adams would receive another kick in the guts on the international scene when an injury ruled him out of Euro 92. England's falure to qualify for World Cup 1994 would mean Adams would have to wait a long time to bury the demons of Euro 88. Once again, lager would be the amber ocean in which he would drown his disappointment. Typically for his career, Adams would enjoy another eventful season in 1992-93. He captained Arsenal to League Cup and F.A. Cup triumphs. Notably, scoring the winner against Spurs at Wembley in the F.A. Cup semi final to even a score for the Paul Gascoigne show two years earlier. One round earlier at Portman Road, Adams scored a headed goal against Ipswich despite having had 12 sticthes in a head wound attained falling down some nightclub stairs the night before. Tone would earn further notoriety in the immediate aftermath of the League Cup Final victory. He hoisted match winner Steve Morrow onto his shoulders, only to drop him, causing Morrow to miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. Way to ditch the ee-aw chants there Tony.

Adams would enjoy both on pitch bouquets and off the pitch brickbats in the 1993-94 season. Adams and Ray Parlour were arrested for letting off a fire extinguisher in a pizzeria in a less than pleasantry laden encounter with Spurs fans. But he would again be Arsenal's inspirational skipper as Arsenal measled their way to the Cup Winners Cup. As Graham began to ditch his creative players one by one, the team was increasingly reliant on Adams and the back five. They did not disappoint, stifling Europe's best attackers, most notably frustrating Zola, Asprilla and Brolin into a 1-0 submission in the Final in Copenhagen. The next season would prove more challenging, as the births of children Oliver and Amber in quick succession changed his priorities, as well as drinking buddy Paul Merson's spell in rehabilitation that meant Adams had lost his most erstwhile drinking buddy. The sacking of George Graham for financial irregularities coupled with a heart shattering Cup Winners Cup final defeat to Real Zaragoza left the future a pale shade of grey.

The 1995-96 season saw Big Tone suffer badly with injuries. A knee cartilage problem and hernia surgery cut his season in half. He couldn't deal without the emotional crutch of football and began drinking even more heavily. He did regain fitness for Euro 96, where he was named captain by Terry Venables. But whilst a decent showing from England set against the unabashed optimism of Britpop had a nation swept up in fantasy, Adams was about to embrace his nadir. Following the penalty shoot out defeat to Germany, Adams went on a three day bender. He had decided enough was enough, his life was swerving radically off road.I n September 1996, with renowned health fanatic Arsene Wenger about to take the reigns, Adams admitted to alcoholism.

Wenger stuck by him and Adams repaid that faith by remaining his old reliable self on the pitch, continuing to marshall the era defining back four. Wenger was heard to remark, 'I realise this back four are university graduates in the art of defending and Tony Adams is a doctor of defence.' The intellectual metaphor proved to be incredibly apt. Team mates noticed a more sensitive, articulate character emerging. The man nicknamed 'Rodders' who used to voluntarily smash pint glasses on his head, took up the piano and began reading Baudelaire. It was a transformation gloriously aligned with Wenger's new cosmopolitan Arsenal. Out with the booze in with the books, Arsenal's uber defensive style of play, had morphed into a total footballing butterfly. Adams changed as a player too, encouraged by Wenger to move the ball out of the back and express himself. I remember an occasion in April 1997 in a home game with Leicester City, Adams curled the ball left with the outside of his left foot and carried on his run, connecting with Hughes' left wing cross to score.

But Adams would still endure demons. Following a terrible performance in a 3-1 home defeat to Blackburn, Adams would confide in Wenger after the game that he didn't think he could go on any longer. He felt as though he was letting his team down and the captain simply would not have that. Wenger responded by telling him to take a month off. Adams did and came back bigger and better. The conversation would seal a tight envelope of trust that Adams shared with Arsene. The Gunners went on to win the Double, Adams emulating the man he was oft compared to Frank McLintock. The stunning transformation of Arsenal and Adams would be beautifully encapsulated in one golden moment. With the Gunners cantering towards a 3-0 win over Everton that would seal the championship, Steve Bould moved into the centre circle and Adams marauded forwards, a perfect chip from Uncle Bouldy delivered an inch perfect through ball, Adams chested it down on the edge of the box before lining up a left foot volley. 'Would you BELIEVE IT? That sums it all up' roared Martin Tyler. But it was the celebration that really summed it all up for me. Tony admitted, to his shame, that he could not remember the celbrations that enveloped his previous two title triumphs. In the acclaim, Adams turned towards his worshippers in the North Bank, closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He literally inhaled the glory and made damn sure that he would remember this one......then Ian Wright jumped on him!

Adams would return the next season with blond highlights and a supermodel girlfriend (giving rise to very crude, but very amusing chants), but could not prevent Arsenal losing the title on the last day to Manchester United. Tone's appearances would become less frequent as injuries began to take their toll. Adams even had his wisdom teeth removed in response to back and hernia problems. Tony's trademark posture, slouched, his hand at the small of his back, surveying the scene, had wrecked his back. He would win one last title, as he would again be club captain for another Arsenal double. He remains the only player to ever captain a side to title wins in three different decades. With Sol Campbell signed in the summer of 2001 and with Bould, Dixon and Winterburn all gone, Adams retired in the summer of 2002. He was given a deserved testimonial against Celtic in May of that year, a much better effort than the ramshackle, hastily arranged Adams testimonial in 1994. He has since managed Wycombe Wanderers, been Assistant Manager of a Portsmouth side that won the F.A. Cup, as well as setting up his Sporting Chance clinics for sportsmen suffering addiction and become a UNESCO ambassador for Somalia and a keen champion of RAFT (Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust).

Tony Adams is remembered as the last of a dying breed. A man who plied his illustrious career with one club. He was the finest defender of his generation, precise in the tackle, imperious in the air and with a natural reading of the game. But most notably his leadership qualities set him apart. Not only with a camera friendly shake of the fist, Adams would push the team up the pitch and make them play. He also coordinated the greatest back four unit in British footballing history. He was a leader of men. As well as his fine CV of trophies, Adams was well respected within the game. He carried his demons and bore his disgraces with dignity and forebearance. He overcame national humiliation by soldiering on and earning the England captaincy, he wrestled his demons to become a reformed character and reformed footballer. A man raised into the rough and tumble of 80s footballadapted and embraced the new millennium by morphing into the epitome of the cultured defender. In December 2004, he had another son. Atticus, named presumably after the character in Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mocking Bird.' But if you really want an indication of his standing, in his 2002 testimonial programme, the first of many tributes across the souvenir edition was penned by one Alex Ferguson. THAT, sums it all up.LD.

Use your social login to comment on front page articles. Login using you Facebook, Twitter, Google or LinkedIn accounts and have your say!

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday July 6 2008

Time: 7:42PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
he is a *****er*
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 19:55:00

there all *****ers
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 19:55:00

A great player but like Ian Wright should ban himself from appearing in any interview as they both talk total boll*cks. Interviewer - "Tony, did you think their No. 9 had a good game?" Adams - "Well Gary (rubs his chin) in my opinion...(deep stare at the floor) look up like a zombie)...I think No. 9 had a good game (moronic grimace)! Interviewer - "Thanks for that insight Tony!"
Bergkamp was a Myth
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 19:57:00

Yeah, some people just make some really dumb comments sometimes.
Little Dutch
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 20:01:00

How comes only 5 people are allowed to post arcticles on here? It's not like its your website?
Bergkamp was a Myth
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 20:21:00

"Yeah, some people just make some really dumb comments sometimes. " Little Dutch Like pretending they've watched Frank Stapleton when he played for Arsenal 2 years before they were born...I know...CLASSIC! :-O
Bergkamp was a Myth
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 20:22:00

One of the regrets I have for starting to watch football so late is that I missed great players and great men like our Mr Arsenal. In a way I admire people like him even more - all the flaws, all the setbacks, all the shortcomings are so endearing. But he's done what some of us can't - to come back even stronger. And LD I notice you used the word "transformed" quite a couple of times, probably for lack of a better word to describe what Adams went through, bcos it's just extraordinary for a footballer to do so. And his transformation was so complete that he said not long ago he hadn't drunk for years. For these guys above, I don't know what you were watching, Big Tone usually gives honest and measured opinions in interviews. He also took the time to visit clubs throughout Europe to learn the trade before starting in management. He also puts in the effort to act as a No. 2 to work his way up and I admire him for that. His 2-year record with Pompey speaks for itself. A lot of Gooners, me included, would love to see him as a great candidate to succeed Arsene one day.
Lou the Gunneress
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 20:23:00

BWAM, this is how the Vital network works. We have 5 people on the writing team. If you'd like to start a topic and invite discussion, by all means start a thread on the forum (see that link in the top nagivation bar?). Or if you have some write-up yourself, you can post your own article here and the editor will read it and consider to post it onto the homepage:
Lou the Gunneress
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 20:26:00

BWAM, you have to ask the editor, as you point out, it's not my website. But good posts on the forum are front paged. Feelfree tohave a try. A small correction, at no point did I claim to have watched Frank Stapleton, I said he earned the ire of Arsenal fans once upon a time. I suggest you crack out the bariphocals and re read. Liu, I'm not sure he has the credentials to manage Arsenal, but I certainly wouldn't mind having him back as a defensive coach.
Little Dutch
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 20:29:00

BWAM- You can suggest an article by submitting one using the drop down options from the Vital Membership option at the top of the page. If you feel you have anything to say that is worth reading. On current performance that seems doubtful but by all means give it a try. As for Adams he was an iconic figure of his time. Just a shame he seems not to accord the club the same sort of respect and consideration now that he still enjoys.
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 20:32:00

I know he annoyed people by not being at the last game at Highbury, but I respect his decisions. The only thng I was a little annoyed about was that he didn't turn out for DB10s testimonial. But whilst he was being paid to be a pundit,he had no obligation togive us favourable reviews. In any case, his recent offerings seem to suggest he's coming back round to the club.
Little Dutch
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 20:35:00

Thanks LD, an excellent and well-considered history of Big Tone. It's becoming exceedingly hard these days to have such idols--I suppose it's the mercenary nature of the game but, he's one player, along with Bergkamp, who never broke the heart of the supporters, and always bled Arsenal red and white.
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 20:36:00

On his transformation, I remember an incident when we played Blackpool in December 99 in the Cup. Adans went over near the Blackpool fans to retrieve the ball for a goal kick. They responded with the 'eee awww'chanting and Adams just smiled. He scored about three minutes later, but didn't even bother acknowledging the Blackpool fans.
Little Dutch
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 20:55:00

LD, I don't think Big Tone has yet got the credentials to run a big club like Arsenal either. That's why I said "one day". But for now of course, if he can work with Arsene, a role like defensive coach or asst manager would be great. Or if he gets to run a medium-sized club like Pompey in a full manager capacity for a few years with success, I think he'd then be ready for Arsenal. Kind of like the path Mark Hughes is taking before realising his dream of running ManU one day (only that I'm not sure about the move to a place like Man City...)
Lou the Gunneress
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 21:11:00

It would certainly be a fairytale if he could come back tomanage us successfully. But equally important that he doesn't ruin his legend in the manner that Hoddle and Ardilles did.
Little Dutch
Report Abuse
06/07/2008 21:15:00

great article, thanks for the read mate
Report Abuse
07/07/2008 08:07:00

An absolute legend. Regarding TA6 not attending the last game at Highbury, I don't know his reasons for not attending the last day, maybe it was too painful for him I don't know, but I do know that he spent a long time behind closed doors having a last look around and just sitting in the stands, I presume thinking about the good old days.
Report Abuse
07/07/2008 10:04:00

As a Spurs fan, I have to admit that Tony Adams is a immense man and a very good player, particularly when he turned his career and life around, and an object lesson in what good coaching can bring about in a plyer under both Venables and Wenger.
Report Abuse
07/07/2008 10:20:00

sounds quite emotional R7. TA was, is, and always will be my favourite Arsenal player. His outstretched arms after the sweet left-footed volley against Everton made sure of that. That posture on one hand looked like he was hugging the fans, the stadium and the club, and on the other it looked as if it was a remorseful gratitude to everyone for having another chance to make things right. I hope he comes back to the club one day.
Report Abuse
07/07/2008 10:29:00

I'll always remember the CWC quarter final against Torino one tuesday in 94. We had such legends on the pitch as Jensen, Hillier and Selley. It was a woefull game but since I live in Ireland my trips to Highbury were and are limited. Big Tone saved the day with the only goal. My Dad and I were due to fly home the next morning but were so happy we ended up going on the beer in London for a week, taking in such sporting events as Cheltenham Gold Cup, a World heavyweight title fight in The New Den and a Crystal palace v Charlton game on the saturday (long story), not to mention Paddy's day in the middle. My Mum was delighted when we staggered home like two Tony Adams's on the Sunday evening!!!
Bradys Chips
Report Abuse
07/07/2008 12:11:00

Adams tells a story of a conversation he had with Wenger prior to the double winning season in which Wenger remarked that though Adams had achieved a fair amount in his career nobody had seen him perform at more than 70% of his capability due to his lifestyle. After the Everton game in which the title was secured you can see Wenger approach Adams and pat him on the chest. Adams apparently asked Wenger if he'd seen the real Adams that day.
Report Abuse
07/07/2008 12:43:00


Have Your Say

Log in...
with your social network     OR     with your Vital account

Recent Arsenal Articles

Jebb Loaned To Stevenage (Thursday March 26 2015)

Walcott Rubbishes Wenger Bust Up Talk (Thursday March 26 2015)

Ozil's On Right Path (Thursday March 26 2015)

Akpom Leaves For Forest Loan (Thursday March 26 2015)

Rambo Lauds The Power of Le Coq (Thursday March 26 2015)

Ajayi Leaves For Cardiff (Wednesday March 25 2015)

Wenger Back In For Smalling? (Wednesday March 25 2015)

Archived Arsenal Articles

List All Vital Arsenal Articles
Have your say
Click here to suggest an article
Click here to suggest a poll
ScoopDragon Premier League Network Sites

Vital Members League (view all)

1. Amos. 46
2. Naijagunner 42
3. Galway Gooner 16
4. Wyn Mills 16
5. Guyfox 11
6. Rocky7 8
7. shewore 8
8. paul_ownz 7
9. Joe_@** 5
10. Nwankwo25 4

League Table (view table)

Team P W D L GD Pts
1. Chelsea 29 20 7 2 +36 67
2. Man City 30 18 7 5 +34 61
3. Arsenal 30 18 6 6 +27 60
4. Man Utd 30 17 8 5 +25 59
5. Liverpool 30 16 6 8 +12 54
6. Southampton 30 16 5 9 +21 53
7. Spurs 30 16 5 9 +5 53

Breaking League News

Has Oscar been playing out of position all along?
Chelsea : 29/03/2015 00:27:01
Foster - Injury Was Stupid
WBA : 28/03/2015 21:06:00
Southampton Tickets Priced Too High?
Southampton : 28/03/2015 20:43:00
Bertrand Gets England Call Up
Southampton : 28/03/2015 20:37:00
Aarons Prepares For Latest Chapter
Newcastle : 28/03/2015 19:10:01

Current Site Poll (view all polls)

Newcastle MotM
Suggested By:  Site Staff
Ospina 5%
Chambers 0%
Gabriel 8%
Koscielny 2%
Monreal 0%
Ramsey 0%
Coquelin 12%
Sanchez 2%
Cazorla 8%
Welbeck 2%
Giroud 59%
Sub - Flamini 2%
Sub - Rosicky 0%
Sub - Bellerin 0%