Tony Adams

Tony Alexander Adams MBE (born 10 October 1966) is an English football manager. As a player, Adams played for Arsenal and England, captaining both teams. In 2019, he was named President of the Rugby Football League.[3]

Tony Adams
Adams, Tony.jpg
Adams in 2010
Personal information
Full name Tony Alexander Adams[1]
Date of birth (1966-10-10) 10 October 1966 (age 54)[1]
Place of birth Romford, London, England
Height 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)[1]
Position(s) Centre back
Youth career
1980–1983 Arsenal
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1983–2002 Arsenal 504 (34)
National team
1985–1986 England U21 5 (1)
1987–2000 England 66 (5)
1989–1990 England B[2] 4 (1)
Teams managed
2003–2004 Wycombe Wanderers
2008–2009 Portsmouth
2010–2011 Gabala
2017 Granada
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Adams spent his entire playing career of 22 years as a centre back at Arsenal.[4] He is considered one of the greatest Arsenal players of all time by the club's own fans[5] and was included in the Football League 100 Legends. With Arsenal, he won four top flight division titles, uniquely captaining a title-winning team in three different decades, three FA Cups, two Football League Cups, a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, and two FA Community Shields.[6] A statue honouring Adams was unveiled at Emirates stadium on 9 December 2011, along with statues of Thierry Henry and Herbert Chapman. He won 66 caps for England between 1987 and 2000 and played at four major tournaments.

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

Early lifeEdit

Born in Romford, 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.[7] His cousin is fellow professional footballer Steve MacKenzie.[8]

Club careerEdit

Adams signed for Arsenal as a schoolboy in 1980. He made his first-team debut on 5 November 1983 against Sunderland in the First Division, four weeks after his 17th birthday. Adams became a regular player in the 1986–87 season, winning his first major trophy that season 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 back four" that lined up in Arsenal's defence, which under George Graham was renowned for its well-disciplined use of the offside trap.[9] On 1 January 1988, he became Arsenal captain at the age of 21;[10] 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; 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.[11]

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 in Rayleigh and when breathalysed his blood alcohol level was found to be more than four times the legal drink-drive limit. On 19 December that year, at Southend Crown Court,[10][12][13] he was imprisoned for four months (being freed after half of his sentence on 15 February 1991)[citation needed] He became one of the most high-profile recovering alcoholics in the UK;[14] his battle with alcohol is detailed in his autobiography, Addicted, which was released in May 1998 to enormous critical acclaim.[14]

Tony Adams statue outside the Emirates Stadium.

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.[citation needed]

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 674 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. It is currently assigned to Gabriel, as of 2020.

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.

A statue of Adams was placed outside Emirates Stadium in celebration of the club's 125th anniversary on 9 December 2011. Manager Herbert Chapman and Arsenal's all-time top goal scorer Thierry Henry[17] and later Dennis Bergkamp were also immortalised with statues outside the ground.[18]

International careerEdit

Adams (left) playing for England at UEFA Euro 1988, as the Netherlands' Marco van Basten scores the first of his three goals

Adams made his debut for England against Spain in 1987, and played in UEFA Euro 1988. England lost all three games, but Adams scored one of England's two goals in the tournament in a 3–1 defeat to the Soviet Union. 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 UEFA Euro 1992 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 unsuccessful UEFA 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, having made sixty-six appearances,[19] 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.

Adams was the first, and remains to date the only, England player to make tournament appearances in three separate decades.

Style of playEdit

Described as a "stopper" (or man–marking defender) by Tom Sheen of The Guardian in 2014, Adams played as a centre-back. A tall, brave, rugged, physical, and committed defender, his main traits were his leadership, aerial prowess, and his ability to read the game and time his tackles. While initially he was not known to be the most gifted player on the ball from a technical standpoint, he developed this aspect of his game under Wenger, and he later excelled as a ball-playing centre-back, in which he became known for his ability to carry the ball out from the back, as well as his penchant for undertaking individual runs.[4][20][21][22][23][24][25][26] However, he was also known for his lack of pace.[27][28]

Managerial and coaching careerEdit

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.[29] 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.[30]


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,[31] following the departure of Harry Redknapp to Tottenham Hotspur. He was subsequently appointed full-time manager.[31][32] He was sacked in February 2009 after just 16 games in charge in which Portsmouth picked up only 10 points.[33]


In May 2010, Adams signed a three-year contract to manage Azerbaijani club Gabala FC of the Azerbaijan Premier League.[34] He departed as coach of Gabala due on 16 November 2011, before the end of the 2011–12 season.[35]

In October 2012, Adams returned to Gabala FC in the capacity of Sporting Director.[36]


On 10 April 2017, Adams was named as manager of La Liga strugglers Granada CF until the end of the 2016–17 season.[37][38] At the end of the season, Granada were relegated from La Liga ending their 8-year stay in the top division. Adams lost all 7 games as manager and was subsequently sacked.[39]

Career statisticsEdit

As a playerEdit

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Arsenal 1983–84[40] First Division 3 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
1984–85[40] First Division 16 0 1 0 1 0 18 0
1985–86[40] First Division 10 0 0 0 0 0 10 0
1986–87[40] First Division 42 6 4 0 9 0 55 6
1987–88[40] First Division 39 2 4 0 8 0 51 2
1988–89[40] First Division 36 4 2 0 5 0 3[a] 1 46 5
1989–90[40] First Division 38 5 3 0 4 0 1[b] 0 46 5
1990–91[40] First Division 30 1 3 1 4 2 37 4
1991–92[40] First Division 35 2 1 0 3 0 4[c] 0 1[b] 0 44 2
1992–93[40] Premier League 35 0 8 2 9 0 52 2
1993–94[40] Premier League 35 0 3 2 2 0 8[d] 2 1[b] 0 49 4
1994–95[40] Premier League 27 3 1 0 4 1 10[e] 0 42 4
1995–96[40] Premier League 21 1 2 0 5 2 28 3
1996–97[41] Premier League 28 3 3 0 3 0 1[f] 0 35 3
1997–98[42] Premier League 26 3 6 0 2 0 2[f] 0 36 3
1998–99[43] Premier League 26 1 5 0 0 0 4[g] 1 1[b] 0 36 2
1999–2000[44] Premier League 21 0 1 1 0 0 11[h] 0 0 0 33 1
2000–01[45] Premier League 26 1 4 1 0 0 8[g] 0 38 2
2001–02[46] Premier League 10 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 13 1
Career total 504 32 54 8 59 5 48 3 7 1 672 49
  1. ^ Appearances in Football League Centenary Trophy
  2. ^ a b c d Appearance in FA Charity Shield
  3. ^ Appearances in European Cup
  4. ^ Appearances in European Cup Winners' Cup
  5. ^ 8 appearances in European Cup Winners' Cup, 2 appearances in Super Cup
  6. ^ a b Appearances in UEFA Cup
  7. ^ a b Appearances in Champions League
  8. ^ 6 appearances in UEFA Cup, 5 appearances in Champions League

International goalsEdit

Scores and results list England's goal tally first.[47]
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 11 November 1987 Stadion Crvene Zvedze, Belgrade, Yugoslavia   Yugoslavia 4–0 4–1 UEFA Euro 1988 qualifying
2. 23 March 1988 Wembley Stadium, London, England   Netherlands 2–2 2–2 Friendly
3. 18 June 1988 Waldstadion, Frankfurt Germany   Soviet Union 1–1 1–3 UEFA Euro 1988
4. 16 November 1988 King Fahd Stadium, Riyahd, Saudi Arabia   Saudi Arabia 1–1 1–1 Friendly
5. 31 May 2000 Wembley Stadium, London, England   Ukraine 2–0 2–0 Friendly

Managerial statisticsEdit

As of 3 June 2017
Managerial record by team and tenure
Team From To Record Ref
P W D L Win %
Wycombe Wanderers 5 November 2003 9 November 2004 53 12 21 20 022.6 [48]
Portsmouth 28 October 2008 9 February 2009 22 4 7 11 018.2 [48]
Granada 10 April 2017 3 June 2017 7 0 0 7 000.0 [48]
Total 82 16 28 38 019.5

Charitable workEdit

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.[49] 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 teammate Paul Merson, himself a recovering alcoholic, is also a patron of the charity.

His Arsenal testimonial match helped raise £500,000 for his charity, the Sporting Chance Clinic.[4]

Adams is a Patron for NACOA—a charity that provides information, advice and support for anyone affected by their parents' drinking.[50] He is also a Patron for charity School-Home Support (SHS). SHS helps disadvantaged children and young people overcome barriers to education such as poverty, domestic abuse and housing issues.[51]

Post-football careerEdit

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.[52]

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

In 2015, Adams underwent heart surgery after suffering from chest pains. After the operation, he stated that it had probably saved his life.[53]

In December 2018, Adams was named as the 29th President of the Rugby Football League from summer 2019, replacing politician Andy Burnham;[3][54] he was succeeded in the honorary role by broadcaster Claire Balding a year later.[55]

In popular cultureEdit





See alsoEdit


  • Adams, Tony. Addicted. (London: CollinsWillow, 1998) ISBN 0-00-218795-7
  1. ^ a b c Hugman, Barry J., ed. (1999). The 1999–2000 Official PFA Footballers Factfile. Harpenden: Queen Anne Press. ISBN 978-1-85291-607-7.
  2. ^ "England's Matches the B team". England Football Online. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  3. ^ a b Bower, Aaron (12 December 2018). "Tony Adams to become new president of Rugby Football League". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Brodkin, Jon (14 May 2002). "A night out for the Adams family". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  5. ^ "Referendum: Is Thierry Henry Arsenal's greatest ever player?". Arsenal Land. Archived from the original on 22 April 2006.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Football personalities of Barking and Dagenham" (PDF). London Borough of Barking & Dagengham. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2012. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  8. ^ "Tony Adams, Lauren Booth, Geraldine James and Elle Macpherson share experience, strength and hopes". 19 October 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  9. ^ The Joy of Six: Great defences, The Guardian, 8 May 2009
  10. ^ a b (5–19 May 2008). "Gunners' Greatest Players – 3. Tony Adams". Official Arsenal Website. Archived from the original on 12 December 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
  11. ^ Joe Lovejoy (5 May 1994). "European Cup-Winners Cup: Smith's strike brings Arsenal European glory: Battling Londoners make light of the loss of Wright and Jensen". The Independent. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  12. ^ "Tony Adams". Ask Men. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  13. ^ Stillman, Tim (25 July 2010). "Stick Your Two Points Up Your Arsenal". Vital Football. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  14. ^ a b Paul Whittaker (March 1998). "Adams turns his back on alcohol". Alcohol Works. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  15. ^ "Brentford snub Adams". BBC Sport. London. 27 June 2002. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
  16. ^ Fordyce, Tom (24 March 2003). "Blast from the past: Part one". BBC News.
  17. ^ Wilson, Jeremy (7 December 2011). "Arsenal to unveil statues of Thierry Henry, Tony Adams, and Herbert Chapman for 125th anniversary". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  18. ^ "Arsenal unveil Dennis Bergkamp statue". BBC News. 22 February 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  19. ^ "Tony Alexander Adams – International Appearances". Retrieved 24 October 2008.
  20. ^ Sheen, Tom (20 October 2014). "John Terry captained Chelsea for the 500th time on Saturday - is he the best centre-back in the Premier League era?". The Independent. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  21. ^ Rob Bagchi (19 January 2011). "Judges have a blindspot when destroyers like Vidic play a blinder". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
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  24. ^ Eccleshare, Charlie (1 April 2019). "Tony Adams exclusive interview: 'I have defied all the odds - I thought I'd be dead at 30'". Telegraph. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
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  26. ^ Camedda, Paolo (10 October 2020). "Il lato oscuro di Tony Adams: la lunga e difficile battaglia contro l'alcol" (in Italian). Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  27. ^ Harper, Nick (1 February 2006). "Terry Butcher: Perfect XI". FourFourTwo. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  28. ^ "Vieira the hero as Arsenal leave it late". The Irish Times. 9 December 1996. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  29. ^ "Adams resigns as Wycombe manager". BBC Sport. London. 9 November 2004. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  30. ^ Stanton, Chris (3 June 2009). "Exclusive: Italian job for Gunners". Setanta. Archived from the original on 7 June 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  31. ^ a b Ashdown, John (28 October 2008). "Adams set to be unveiled as new Portsmouth manager". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  32. ^ "Adams appointed new Pompey boss". BBC. London. 28 October 2008. Archived from the original on 13 February 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  33. ^ "Pompey confirm Adams axe". Sky Sports. British Sky Broadcasting. 9 February 2009. Archived from the original on 9 October 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2009.
  34. ^ Esslemont, Tom (11 May 2010). "Tony Adams' grand plans for Azerbaijan football club". BBC. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  35. ^ "Tony Adams quits as manager of FC Gabala". Independent. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  36. ^ "Tony Adams returns to FC Gabala in Azerbaijan – BBC Sport". Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  37. ^ "Tony Adams named as Granada manager until end of season". The Guardian. 10 April 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  38. ^ "Tony Adams talks about hifccfdds role at Granada CF". Granada CF website. 10 April 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  39. ^ "Tony Adams' Granada are relegated – now the real challenge starts". The Independent. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Tony Adams". Retrieved 21 April 2019.
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  49. ^ Sengupta, Kim (21 August 2000). "Tony Adams to provide safe haven for alcoholic and drug-addict footballers". The Independent. London. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  50. ^ "Tony Adams". Bristol: NACOA. 15 April 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  51. ^ "School-Home Support (SHS) announces new charity patron – Tony Adams MBE". London: School-Home Support. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  52. ^ Rudd, Alyson (29 December 2008). "William Gallas is Arsenal's unlikely saviour". The Times. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  53. ^ "Tony Adams reveals heart surgery in Azerbaijan saved his life". The Guardian. 4 November 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  54. ^ "Former Arsenal captain Tony Adams named Rugby Football League president". The Independent. 13 December 2018. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  55. ^ Tony Adams: 'Hopefully people have had periods of reflection in lockdown', The Guardian, 14 July 2020
  56. ^ SongMeanings. "The Hours – Ali In The Jungle Lyrics". SongMeanings. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
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  61. ^ 1995 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final, Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation
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  63. ^ Moore, Glenn (10 August 1998). "Football: Arsenal show United little charity". The Independent. London. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  64. ^ "Too much too young?". BBC Sport. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
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  66. ^ "Team of the Century: 1997–2007 – the Premiership's finest of the last decade". Give Me Football. 5 September 2007. Archived from the original on 21 October 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  67. ^ "Your overall Team of the Century: the world's greatest-ever XI revealed!". Give Me Football. 6 September 2007. Archived from the original on 21 October 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  68. ^ a b "Owen miss nets award". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  69. ^ a b "Fergie & Giggs honoured". Sky Sports. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  70. ^ Brodkin, Jon (12 June 1999). "Adams seals recovery with a gong". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2017.

External linksEdit