If ever there was a Mr Arsenal it was Tony Adams, a player once ridiculed across the land with donkey noises and carrots thrown at him. A man who came out of prison to help the club win the league.
There are many memories I have of Adams. We all remember the goal against Everton and the celebration, which gave him his statue outside the ground. But for me I forever see a player, a captain, who was constantly shouting at his teammates, ensuring they kept to their positions, geeing them up when times were hard or telling them to concentrate. This was a player who demanded the same never say die attitude from all the team.
He was a rock in the clubs most famous back four of Steve Bould, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. So many words can describe Adams from gutsy and committed to hard working and battler. He was a player that inspired others on the football pitch.
Adams made his debut for Arsenal in November 1983 against Sunderland aged 17, it was not his best game as he was partially to blame for the defeat, but it didn’t take him long to rise to the very top.
No matter what life threw at him, Adams always bounced back. The donkey chants, the spell in prison, or his alcohol addiction, each time he would come back stronger.
He made 669 appearances for the Gunners and scored 48 goals which was excellent for a centre back.
He was a fantastic defender, with a great footballing brain. His timing in the tackle was second to none, he was brave in the air and if the ball was there to be won he had no problem putting his body on the line. He was a player with a huge desire to win not only each match but each individual battle he faced on the pitch. George Graham called him ‘my colossus’ while Arsene Wenger described him as his ‘professor of defence’. His ability to read the game was incredible, and there were not many players that got the better of Adams.
Above all were his leadership skills, a player that you would want next to you in the trenches before your team went out to battle. He ensured the team delivered and if he was having a bad game he still never stopped shouting at the rest of the team, he was never one to disappear and hide away.
His Arsenal career is ladled with trophies and medals, winning 10 major trophies. The fact he won three league titles in three decades shows what a fantastic servant Adams was to the club. Four league titles, three FA Cups, two league cups and one UEFA cup winners cup as well as three Community Shields is an incredible feat for a player who remarkably was a one man club.
A Captain for 14 years, Adams was everything that the Arsenal faithful wanted to see. What is more remarkable is how Adams adapted from the George Graham years of tight defending, offside traps and 1-0 wins to an open attacking game under Arsene Wenger. One thing’s for sure, Wenger brought out the very best of Tony Adams and saved his footballing career where he had started to struggle off the pitch.
Save him he did, and Adams came on leaps and bounds and was suddenly able to express himself more on the pitch, starting attacks, calm in possession of the football and even pushing further up the pitch.
And finally to that goal, the last day of the 97/98 season. Arsenal had won the title and set about putting on a show for the Highbury faithful, in a 4-0 demolition of Everton. But it was Adams’ goal that stole the show.
Steve Bould won the ball on the halfway line as Adams went sprinting past him. Bould like a cultured playmaker delayed his pass before lifting a pinpoint ball into the path of the sprinting Adams. The Englishman controlled the ball on his chest before lambasting a left foot shot into the net. The commentary from Martin Tyler said it all as he screamed “would you believe it” as Adams stood, arms aloft in that famous iconic celebration.
But we did believe it, this was Tony Adams after all, a true Arsenal legend if not one of the best to ever grace the Arsenal shirt.
Mr Arsenal how we could do with you now.