A spectacular playing career with Arsenal has yet to be matched in management, but Tony Adams hopes to save a side in La Liga where he has become a key figure
Breaking news can both be expected and come totally out of the blue.
Last Monday, Granada manager Lucas Alcaraz was sacked after another awful performance home against far superior Valencia CF (1-3). Again, most of the fans and media had been waiting for Alcaraz’s exit for many weeks, as his team sported some of the worst stats in La Liga (twenty points in 31 games, second-to-last spot in the standings) and was effectively a zombified team dragging its feet through game after game.
Enter Tony Adams, in one of the most shocking and unexpected moves this season. A few hours after the former manager had collected his belongings from his office at the training grounds, an official statement explained Adams’ signing and his new job at Los Carmenes. The Arsenal legend, after nineteen years as a Gunner, had been seen quite a lot lately in the sunny Spanish city, as he had become one of the top advisors for John Liang, Granada’s owner and president since June 2016.
After retiring in 2002, Adams had to adjust to a new life after nearly twenty years bleeding Arsenal through and through. His career from that point on, though, has been lackluster to say the least: he spent a year in Wycombe Wanderers in 2003 (the team got relegated to League Two), was assistant coach in Feyenoord and Utrech (both in the Netherlands), and then landed in Portsmouth as Harry Redknapp’s assistant in 2006.
Redknapp departed in 2008, leaving Adams as manager for a short run of sixteen games and only 10 points seized before being sacked. Later, he signed as coach in FC Gabala (Azerbaijan) but resigned after eighteen months for “personal reasons”, though he returned one year later as sports director.
The former player, with a well-known troubled past (alcohol addiction) which he luckily straightened years ago, met Granada’s boss John Liang a few years ago and set up a strong personal and professional relationship. Months earlier, a life-or-death heart surgery had left Adams wishing for a change of pace, and he found that kind of motivation in Asia. He coached Chongqin Lifan, one of the John Liang-owned clubs in China, and soon became one of the top executives in DDMC Sports, the conglomerate that binds together all of Liang’s sport-related businesses and enterprises.
How did an Arsenal legend end up in Granada’s training grounds? And, most importantly: is Tony Adams capable of performing a miracle and avoiding relegation for a team who has to overcome a five-point deficit in seven games?
After a shaky start of season, advisor Adams came in in November and began having a more hands-on approach in the last couple of months, directly overseeing Alcaraz’s work since March and becoming a daily presence in training sessions and meetings. His friendship with President Liang finally opened the door for a job on a La Liga bench, one of the most sought-out positions in today’s football.
Soon, comparisons were drawn between his case and Gary Neville’s: the former Manchester United legend also had strong links with Asian owner Peter Lim, and that ultimately granted him the chance of managing Valencia CF. His adventure, though, didn’t have a happy ending, and he was replaced by Pako Ayestarán after only three wins in 16 La Liga games and getting KO’d both in La Copa and that season’s Europa League.
The former defender seems to have a different approach to his new players than Neville, though. While the Bury left-back was keen on defending his team even in the worst of debacles, Adams had no problem on staging a wild first media appearance last Tuesday by vowing that he will ‘kick up the arse’ any player who underperforms.
Such a blunt statement by the former Arsenal and England captain has been backed-up by some uncommon moves, such as bringing in two English players (Kieran Richardson and Nigel Reo Coker) in some sort of tryout to see if they can help the team in some way.
Legend Tony Adams is now Coach Adams and will face his first test next Sunday against Celta de Vigo, a side that is struggling to keep their high level of performance and which is currently still competing in Europa League. His goal: passing on some of his leadership and competitive skills to his players in order to bounce back from relegation spots and remain amongst Spain’s top teams, in what has become overnight the biggest challenge yet in his short but exotic career as manager.