I am indebted to a friend, Fatbury, for the contact. ‘I’ve won a meeting with Tony Adams, fancy coming along?’ I don’t need asking twice.
It is a couple of years since I attended a dinner at which Adams fielded questions and looked nervous, unsure of himself.
When we arrive this time the change in Tony’s demeanour is marked. He is confidence and charm personified. A man at ease with strangers, and more importantly, himself.
Asked about his biggest achievement, Adams is ever the honest man. “16th August 1996. I took my last drink and that has probably saved my life.” There are tales to be told, but not here.
How about in football? “I have been very, very lucky”, he acknowledges, “from lifting the Championship in ’89 to winning two doubles under Wenger I have achieved so much. Obviously winning the league at Anfield was special, but so was the Cup-Winners Cup Final in Copenhagen. That was when all the work we had done as a defence paid off.”
“At international level there were moments too. Euro ’96 we were so close.” I ask if he had considered taking a penalty in the fateful semi-final against Germany, and am surprised. “I was due to take the fateful one but Gareth Southgate was so insistent, so confident he would score, we let him have it. I wasn’t great at penalties anyway.” There is no malice in the account, but you do sense it still niggles the big man that an international prize eluded him.
So what next for the Gunners legend? “I really don’t know. I have prepared myself for management I think. I spent time in Italy and Holland getting a good look at their youth coaching, and I spent some time at Wycombe. Those who have criticised me forget the players I brought through there who have made big money for the club. When Harry offered me a free hand with the first team at Pompey I jumped at it. But will I be there next year? I honestly don’t know.”
Almost before it has begun, the meeting comes to an end. An Israeli journalist is on the phone to talk about the England game. Tony makes time for photographs and a farewell.
As a star-struck fan I remember ‘Mr Arsenal’s’ big days in the red and white. I hope wherever he finds himself in the future he is successful. It looks as though that may not be at Portsmouth. Club chairmen seeking a new manager this summer would be well advised to get in touch soon. I have a feeling he may be a popular target.
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