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Name Tony Adams
Gender Male
Birthplace Romford
Nationality UK
Ethnic English
Job English Footballer
Desc Another one-club man, Adams spent all 22 years of his professional career at Arsenal. Uniquely, he captained a title-winning team across three different decades, during which time he won four top-flight division titles, three FA Cups, two Football League Cups, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and two FA Community Shields. A true legend, he is considered one of the greatest Arsenal players of all time

Affiliation

Club as Coach Granada FC
  Chongqing Lifan [Youth Coach]
  Gabala FC
  Portsmouth
  Portsmouth [assistant to Harry Redknapp]
  Feyenoord
  Wycombe Wanderers
Club as Player Arsenal FC
Founding Sporting Chance

Relationship

Coach Arsene Wenger
Teammate Patrick Vieira
  Nigel Winterburn
  Lee Dixon
  Tony Adams
  Martin Keown

Notes

University Brunel University [sports science]

Notes

Sporting Chance A clinic to help sportsmen and women conquer drink, drug and gambling addiction

1998 09 07 Retrieve

[Tony Adams describes life on the bottle] After four or five lager tops, I was buzzing again. I was Charlie Big Potatoes

2003 11
Tony Adams was appointed manager of Wycombe Wanderers

2006 01 01 Retrieve

[Tony Adams on Thierry Henry] I’m always asked by Arsenal fans if I think Thierry Henry is the greatest ever Arsenal player. It’s impossible to answer, but he is the greatest player on the planet at present. You can see that he scares defences and players like that come round once in a blue moon

2006 01 02 Retrieve

[Tony Adams on Thierry Henry] I saw Henry before the ‘98 World Cup and he was playing left-wing, and even Arsene couldn’t have seen what he would develop into as a centre forward. Naturally because he played left-wing all those years he naturally slipped to that side and came up with that right-foot finish. It was always natural for him and he must have got about 50 goals just doing that move!

2009 02
Tony Adams failed at Fratton Park and was sacked after just 16 games in charge, after Portsmouth picked up on ten points

2011 06 10 Retrieve

[Former Arsenal captain Tony Adams has claimed that George Graham was a better coach than current boss Arsene Wenger] I love Arsenal and I will always be proud to walk through the door as an Arsenal man. If I went back there as a disaster, I would be a disaster as a manager, not as a player, so I’ve got no fear of going back there one day and doing it my own way – good, bad or ugly. Maybe not this year, but next season, I might have a chance of winning the Azerbaijan league title with Gabala and going into the Champions League qualifying rounds. We could even play Arsenal, but they are struggling to get in the top five now, aren’t they? Who knows?

[The former Portsmouth boss has travelled 2,500 miles to revive his managerial career, and has already boosted the defensive displays of FC Gabala, a strength Adams has attributed to the management of George Graham] We kept 21 clean sheets in 32 games last season, including 11 on the spin, which I believe is the 89th best in the history of football. Good back four, everyone behind the ball, good at set plays, very George Graham. No disrespect to Arsene, but George’s coaching ability, defensive structure and technical ability, for me, is far better. No injustice to Arsene, but it’s his strength, and that was George’s particular strength.They say coaches are the best thieves and I think he stole it off Terry Venables.

I think Arsene Wenger is a magnificent physiologist and psychologist. Those are the areas where he excels. He’s a lovely man and he has the respect of all the players he’s ever worked with. George was an outstanding coach – I think I won six or seven trophies under him, including the Cup Winners’ Cup against Parma with a team including Ian Selley and David Hillier in midfield and Steve Morrow at the back. You kind of think the guy has got something.

That back four – Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn and myself - doesn’t happen by luck. We worked hard on organisation. Morning and afternoon. We hated George for it, but we were on top of our game and we reaped the benefits. We won the League in 1989 and 1991 but we should have done so much more – we under-achieved with that squad. I’ve been working at my job in Azerbaijan and when I came back at Christmas, during our winter break, I went to the Man City game at the Emirates and it was great looking at the madness back in England – the greed, the fear and the managers’ average shelf life of one year, three months. More than 50 coaches have lost their jobs in English football since I went to Azerbaijan. I love the anonymity and I don’t think working in England is for me – apart from the Arsenal.

2011 06 11 Retrieve

[Tony Adams compares Wenger and Graham, his two former Arsenal coaches] No disrespect to Arsene, but George’s coaching ability, defensive structure and technical ability is far better. They say coaches are the best thieves, and I think he stole it off Terry Venables. George was an outstanding coach – I think I won six or seven trophies under him, including the Cup Winners’ Cup against Parma with a team including Ian Selley and David Hillier in midfield and Steve Morrow at the back. You kind of think the guy has got something. That back four – Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn and myself - doesn’t happen by luck. We worked hard on organisation. Morning and afternoon. We hated George for it, but we were on top of our game and we reaped the benefits

2015 11 28 Retrieve

[on Patrick Vieira] Not only is Patrick a big, strong player, he’s very intelligent and a great reader of the game. An amazing athlete with enormous energy – he covers huge distances over 90 minutes

2016 02 03 Retrieve

[On Dennis Bergkamp] An enormously talented footballer: intelligent, always drifting between the lines and with fantastic distribution. He really opens up doors

2016 10 10 Retrieve

[Tony Adams on Sir Alex Ferguson] Fergie (Sir Alex Ferguson) said I was a Manchester United player in the wrong shirt … I said he was an Arsenal manager in the wrong blazer

[Tony Adams on Arsenal Shirt] blazerPlay for the name on the front of the shirt and they’ll remember the name on the back

[Tony Adams on Loyalty] I will sign every contract Arsenal put in front of me without reading it

[Tony Adams on Winning] Those that say it is the taking part and not the winning that is important are, for me, wrong. It is the other way round

[Tony Adams on People] I don’t actually like people. I’m a longer and if I had my way I’d just walk my dogs every day, never talk to anyone and then die

2017 04 10 Retrieve

[Tony Adams on his old alcohol problems] There was a culture of drinking at that time. Not with every team but most teams went out for a drink after games and drank a lot. A couple of times I even played drunk… one was against Sheffield United. I’d been drinking the night before and when I got up I was still drunk. At that point, I couldn’t be sober so my solution was to drink again. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to play in that game

I drank for 12 years and I didn’t want to stop. I was in prison. I fell down the stairs. But I still wanted to keep drinking

[Retiring from the game in 2002 to move into coaching, in 2015 he went under the knife for a heart operation] I felt a pain in training and they told me that I had to have a angioplasty

2017 04 11 Retrieve

[Tony Adams speaks at a press conference unveiling him as interim head coach of Granada FC] I’m very much an interim coach. I’m here to give the players a kick up the arse and win games. I have 40 years experience

2017 06 07 Retrieve

[Tony Adams offer a theory why he’s been overlooked by his former club] Perhaps Arsene thought I might be too challenging for him

2017 06 23 Interview

[Tony Adams on life as an alcoholic. You suffered from painful self-loathing and self-doubt as a child. Do you think these characteristics made you more vulnerable to problems such as alcoholism later in life?] I think it is nature and nurture. I think alcoholism is hereditary and genetic but there are also a lot of issues that maybe I could have avoided if I had dealt with them better in my childhood: fear being one of them. I pretty much ran away from everything other than football because it was the only place I felt comfortable. When I wasn’t on the football pitch I was full of insecurities. I had low self-esteem; I didn’t like myself; I had a big nose and big ears; I was the gangly, tall guy who didn’t fit in.

I was so sensitive to any little jokes. I remember a book being passed around at school in a reading lesson and I was having a full-scale panic attack. There was just fear in my heart. I was sweating. When it came round to my turn to read I was in bits and I made a complete pig’s ear of it which only made things worse. I said ‘wheely’ instead of ‘really.’ There was a programme called ‘Chorlton and the Wheelies’ on TV at the time and I was then forever known as the ‘Wheelie Kid.’

Normal boys would probably laugh it off but I am still talking about that incident 40 years later. The shame and the self-loathing and the lack of self-esteem were huge.

[q: In your days as a player you would sometimes wake up hungover, covered in vomit and urine. Do you still reflect back on those dark times?] I am now 20 years without a drink so I know I don’t act like that and I have not wet the bed since then, so sometimes you think: was it really that bad? Did I really get sent to prison? (Adams served 58 days in Chelmsford Prison over the winter of 1990-1991 for drink-driving.) You can convince yourself as time goes on that maybe I can just have a glass of wine? But for me it is important to be real and to not gloss over those moments that got me to the bottom. That is the way it was. That is the person I was. And I have got to remind myself that my best drinking took me to the bottom.

I go back to AA meetings to remind myself how bad it got. But I don’t think too much about the past. It is dealt with. I try to live in the day. If I get anxious at all it is usually about the future; the fear of what is next. But I try to stay in the day.

[q: Professional athletes dedicate themselves to their sport to the point of obsession. Did you find your sense of self-worth tied to your performances on the pitch?] Absolutely, I said to James – he is my therapist but I call him my friend – that I know how to get drunk and I know how to play football but I don’t know who I am. In the early days I was Tony Adams, the footballer. That was who I was. Once you identify yourself with that sport, if you remove the football element, what is left? Who are you? So when you get injured or retire, where is Tony, the human being?

I see this problem in footballers all the time now. When they stop playing, who are they? They have lost their identity.

I have a great story which sums it up. I was at a Rolling Stones concert with Colin Pates who played for Chelsea and was very successful and later came to Arsenal. A kid came up to me and said: ‘can I have your autograph, Mr Adams?’ Then he looked at Colin Pates and he said: ‘didn’t you used to be Colin Pates?’ Colin had retired by this time. But even to other people you are entirely defined by what you used to do.

[q: Were there particular moments in your career – injuries, victories – when you were more likely to hit the bottle?] It is a progressive illness and for me it is like a lift going down and down and down. You can get off at any floor. But yes Saturday afternoons after matches were common and then on Sundays it got worse. There were also holiday periods when I had no reason to stay sober so holidays were just fuelled with drink. Injuries were problematic too because I had no responsibilities so they were just another time to get on the lash.

But it was not a simple case of going out for a couple of beers and going home. That is not my story. I took it to excess. I crossed a line and I couldn’t get back. I had long periods of sobriety when I was focusing on football but I always had a drink at the end of it. I would just fall off the wagon. It was like a running joke. I wouldn’t drink for weeks, then I would get pissed again. It went down and down. But there were other periods when I didn’t drink because I just swapped drinking for football, my first love.

[q: You helped to set up the Sporting Chance clinic to help other athletes dealing with addiction. Are things better for athletes today?] We do about a hundred education seminars a year now but in my day no ex-pro came into the club and taught you some life skills. They took you down the pub. We are trying to pass the message on with the new generation that there are other ways to live.

[q: Was alcohol ingrained in the football culture in your era?] I must admit it was in the culture in those days. I don’t think I could have got away with it in today’s modern game. Maybe I would have swapped that addiction for another and started gambling or something. I don’t think I could have kept up physically and still done that level of drinking.

There has been a big shift away from alcohol and into gambling at the charity I work with. Certainly in my generation, over the three decades I played, booze was part of the industry. We would have a Tuesday drinking club but I had a Monday and a Wednesday club as well and it got out of control. I found myself not able to control it. I had lost all control by the end.

[q: As you sobered up, your male friendships changed. You spent less time with heavy-drinking teammates and more time with more thoughtful and intelligent teammates like Lee Dixon. Were you surprised at how sobriety changed you?] When I was drinking I was not really talking to people. There is no real communication. It is banter and drinking, no more. But I have real humour today. I have real laughter. I have real pain. But I also have real friendships. I don’t think they were real friendships before. They were what they were. I don’t think anything less of those other guys. It was my problem, not theirs’. But when I put down the drink I started to change. I became close to different kinds of friends and different kinds of people became open to me too.

[q: As you were sobering up, you had to deal with the death of your parents, including watching your mother die of bone cancer. Was it difficult to stay sober during that period?] Life happens and death happens but to go through that, as a man who couldn’t keep sober for three weeks – that was my record – was something I am proud of. I am now near on 21 years sober.

Even good things like marriage and success can be dangerous at times, because that is when you are celebrating and happy and you think of booze as a reward. I would always celebrate trophies with a drink, so I would work hard for six weeks and then, when it was all done, I would have a skinful. That had to stop.

But my mother’s and father’s deaths - and especially with my mum because it was really horrific watching her die; she didn’t deserve to die like that, she was a good woman – made me question everything. What the hell is this about? I had to watch her die over nine months and it was just horrific and so sad.

I am proud of myself that I dealt with it step by step and I didn’t go down the pub, get smashed or run away. I was with her to the end. This is pretty much normal stuff for normal human beings but for me it was quite pivotal. I would never have done that before. I would have found some excuse and run away and got drunk.

[q: Your father never accepted that you were an alcoholic. Was the impact on your family the most devastating of all?] It is really interesting with the family dynamic and how hopeless you feel. My first wife was an addict as well and there was a lot of co-dependency. You want to cure them, so I have got an understanding and compassion for family members who deal with this.

My dad didn’t understand it. Listen, I didn’t understand it. That is why I kept drinking. So I have compassion for my dad and he reacted in the only way he knew. He sat me down in my kitchen and called me a drunk. He said: ‘Sort yourself out, son. You are drinking with builders, embarrassing yourself, weeing yourself. You have to take care of yourself, son.’

A few years later when I had sobered up I took him for a nice meal and he said: ‘Tone, I won’t have it, not one person will call you a drunk. You are not. Your wife left you. You had a few problems.’

I just said, ‘Thanks dad,’ and left it there. It is hard for anyone to understand. When my first wife was getting treatment I was ringing up counsellors, saying: ‘Get her arse home now! What are you doing? Get her sorted out, for God’s sake, and get her back home. I have got three kids in this room.’ I was angry but that comes from a lack of understanding of the illness.

[q: In AA meetings you were talking to tube drivers and plumbers, far away from the bubble of professional football. Did that dose of normality help you?] There is one common denominator among all alcoholics and that is that we have all been to hell. By identifying together we get out of that hell. That is the common thing. Hopefully people don’t have to go there but luckily I got out. Other people were the same. They were tube drivers and postmen but they were the same as me. I identified with these guys. I am not special and different and neither are they. Illness doesn’t care how much money you have got.

[q: Were you a very different man on your debut in 1983 compared to in your final match in 2002?] Oh my God, listen, thank God I sobered up six years before I retired because that gave me some preparation and I got to know myself as a human being. It meant I was ready and prepared to face the normal world. That little boy who was playing football for Arsenal at the age of 17 was completely driven but so scared of failing and frightened of everything. By the end I was a completely different man.

2018 05 10 Retrieve

[Salas’s finest moment that year came against England at Wembley when the underdogs of South America stunned their European counterparts in a show of counter-attacking, aggressive, intelligent football. Salas was at the heart of everything, his pace, power and movement too good for Sol Campbell and Tony Adams. In his post-match interview, Adams said] Marcelo Salas was top class. [He] Has all the attributes to succeed at a big club. I would say he’s probably one of the best strikers I’ve played against for England

2019 08 01 Retrieve

[Already set to miss the beginning of the 1996/97 campaign due to a long-term knee injury which nearly ruled him out of Euro ‘96, Arsenal skipper Tony Adams went on his last drinking spree following England’s semi-final defeat by Germany] For weeks, I drank myself into oblivion… After the boozy chaos of July and August, getting back to playing football was a godsend

2019 11 10 Retrieve

[Arsenal legend Tony Adams has offered some defence to embattled star Mesut Ozil and says that the club’s board should carry much of the blame for their poor state] We went to Leicester expecting a good hiding and we got one. It’s infectious once you’ve got that mentality. The recruitment has been poor for a few years now. The manager must be pulling his hair out. I think it’s easy to blame [Unai] Emery. He’s doing his best with what he’s got. It’s a bigger problem than this coach, it really is

[Ozil, meanwhile, has been a source of hot debate with the north London side] He should be the cherry on the cake – but Arsenal haven’t got a cake!

[Adams does not feel that Emery is currently exploiting the quality of the players he has to the fullest extent] It’s no good when you keep changing the defence, there’s no consistency. If you haven’t got the technical ability to play out even if you haven’t you can push up to the halfway line and then drop off again and get the ball but you can’t keep turning it over. It’s inevitable, if you keep turning it over you’re inviting pressure. It’s very worrying. Just push them out from the back and play in their half for a while

2019 11 10b Retrieve

[Tony Adams defends Unai Emery and suggests what the real problem at Arsenal is] I think it is easier to blame the manager. I don’t think he is doing himself any favours at the moment, with the captaincy situation, for instance

Today, he got them organised but they just sat back and dropped so deep. The recruitment has been very poor for some years now. You have got to have characters in there. There are not any in the squad. It is difficult for him, he hasn’t got the players. The manager must be pulling his hair out. We came here expecting a good hiding and they got one. I do not think those players go out on the pitch and believe they will keep a clean sheet and it is infectious

2019 11 23 Retrieve

[Tony Adams says The presence of Jose Mourinho at Tottenham could force Arsenal into a managerial change] What’s happened over the other side of north London has put huge pressure on this guy [Emery], they’ve made a significant change. This is a really poor performance [against Southampton]. Absolutely, the fans are not going to be happy with this. I don’t want anybody to go because I do think there’s been a huge problem with recruitment at the club for lots of years. But he’s not getting the best out of this group of players. They are literally all over the place and they’re going backwards

[It has been claimed that Pochettino should be offered the chance to cross a fierce divide by taking the reins at Arsenal] I’m not sure [Pochettino’s] the right manager. I wouldn’t want him at this club I think the Tottenham connection and there might be other people out there. Someone who can do the defensive side of the game would be a start

2019 12 06 Retrieve

[Tony Adams says Arsenal are looking after themselves too much] I think they are looking after themselves a little bit too much. They need brave people on and off the pitch. You need a bit of honesty here, and a coach to go ‘hold on a minute, come on guys’. You need to be called out. And I don’t think a lot of that has been going on. The coaches put on lovely sessions for the team and everything goes round and round until you go ‘actually guys, you’re the ones on the pitch, you’ve got to make the decisions and stand up and be counted’.

There are not too many of those guys out there. They’re all kind of looking after themselves. And the minute it goes wrong, they’ve gone. They’ve gone under. It’s too lightweight, there’s not enough characters in there. I think they are feeling a little bit sorry for themselves. I think they need a bit of a shake. If I were the coach in there I’d definitely be giving them a shake and saying ‘look, be more scared of me than actually getting out there and getting on with it’. That’s what they need at the moment. They are sitting there waiting for things to happen instead of going and making it happen. They are ready for it to go wrong. When you go into a football pitch expecting bad things to happen they usually do

You’ve got to walk on to that football pitch so positive, ‘we’re the best team in the country, we’re going to prove to everybody we’re fantastic players’. Like I said, at the moment they are a little bit sorry for themselves. It’s difficult - I remember back in the day if we weren’t leading at half-time they’d boo us off the pitch. They’ve got high expectations at the club. It’s irrelevant if those expectations are unrealistic. For me, you’re a player, you play for the Arsenal, you represent the club, you perform to your 100 per cent. There are not a lot of players doing that. They are all looking after themselves, blaming other people, you can’t be like that. You can’t wait for the crowd to help you, it’s the other way around. We always went out there to do our stuff, then you win the crowd over

2019 12 30 Retrieve

[Tony Adams says Arsenal are yet to kick an old habit despite appointing Mikel Arteta as their new boss] There was a mismatch at the far post. And when you’re playing the zonal it’s so important. So many goals come in that area, and not to have one of your best headers in that zone is a massive error

[Arsenal conceded again late on when Tammy Abraham snatched all three points for Chelsea] Chelsea have got back into the game, it’s 1-1, all game they’ve [Arsenal] been going in and pushing in and defending well, he [Shkodran Mustafi] chose to drop off again. This is an old habit Arsenal have been doing week in, week out, they drop off and drop off because they’re scared, it’s fear. If he’d gone in on Abraham [near the halfway line] in here, stick him in there, make the foul. You saw Jorginho, you make the foul there, stop him turning, get in front of him ideally and win the ball. But you’re on your back straight from that position

2020 02 01 Retrieve

[Tony Adams says the athletes he has helped via his Sporting Chance charity eclipses anything he achieved during his playing career] I needed a lot of pain. Alcohol gave me a good hiding: prison, intensive care, pssing myself, shtting myself, still not giving up. Do you know what I mean? Sleeping with people I didn’t want to sleep with. I have to remind myself, at the end of my drinking I did not want to live, but I didn’t know how to kill myself. I was at ‘jumping off point’, we call it. I got there, and only then was I able to ask for help

Captaining your country, going out at Wembley, captaining Arsenal to 10 trophies, playing your first game – they’re all amazing things. But, phew, saving people’s lives takes it out of all context. When I was at the bottom, you see, football was off the radar. The game that I love to death, absolutely has given me everything in my life, why I’m here sitting with you guys today, is football. And I couldn’t give a f**k. It was off the agenda. The charity is the best thing I’ve ever done

As a charity we are not anti-gambling and not anti-drinking. We are very pro athletes who want help. We are not involved in the politics of the gambling companies or sponsorship. We don’t take any sponsorship from gambling or alcohol. It’s not part of me. I can’t be associated with something that nearly killed me. That would be morally wrong […] Ideally I would get the advertising out of the game because it does influence people

2020 02 01b Retrieve

[Tony Adams says Arsenal’s recruitment has delivered 10 years of depression] It’s been bloody depressing the last 10 years. All us Arsenal fans are like: ‘Oh my God, we concede so many goals’ - going from the extreme that we were so fantastic in that department to what we’ve been seeing. The main problem has been recruitment. It’s been very poor. And I don’t think running with agents is the way to do it.

Seventeen backroom staff have gone, six scouts gone. Stevie Morrow, probably the best academy scout in the country, has been sacked. Bringing in players through agents is not how I would build

[Adams believes the rot set in at Arsenal during the reign of Arsene Wenger] I think Arsene Wenger has so much identification with me because he was probably an addict. He couldn’t let go at the end, he’s a typical addict. He’s completely obsessed with the game, every single minute. It maybe cost him relationships and other stuff and I think it cost him his job by not being able to let go. I think the legacy could have been different. I honestly feel he needed to be more open and needed more winners around him

2020 05 02 Retrieve

[Arsenal legend Tony Adams believes that the club face losing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during the summer transfer window] Quite possibly, he could walk out the door. I loved [former manager] Arsene Wenger’s principles, that no player was bigger than the club, and he moved players on if it made sense for the club financially. He was strong with that and he got Champions League football every year but it did stand in the way of recruitment - so we have become a club that is selling the best players

If I was a coach I’d be saying: ‘Don’t sell Aubameyang at any price, we need to recruit, bring players through the academy and keep our best players

[The former centre-back revealed that he rejected the offer to move to Manchester United because of the ambition of the club in his playing days] Alex Ferguson came in for me but I wouldn’t leave and I said to the chairman: ‘Have we got ambition at the club?’. He said: ‘Don’t worry, we are injecting a lot of money and we are going to go for it’. I stayed and the rest is history - Dennis Bergkamp came and Nicolas Anelka, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Robert Pires - we had five World Cup winners in the team. It is a completely different club today and I think recruitment at Arsenal for a good few years has not been great. Now we seem to be selling our best players and you are never going to recruit a championship squad selling all your best players

2020 06 13 Retrieve

[Tony Adams on his alcoholism] I remember going to Hong Kong before the tournament, when I was at a stage with my alcoholism that I knew if I picked up a drink, I wouldn’t have made the tournament. All the guys wanted to go out and because I had this mask of the captain and the leader, I felt I should go too but I knew if I’d picked up a drink, I don’t know if I could’ve stopped and would’ve missed the tournament. So I locked myself on the 15th floor of the hotel and all the lads went out and had the infamous dentist’s chair while I was in my room, crying my eyes out and scared to death because I knew at that point, after I’d had five or six months trying to moderate my drinking, nothing had worked. But I knew that I could abstain from alcohol while I was playing football, as it was the only thing I had at that moment