In the form of Paolo Maldini we’ve already got a legendary one club man playing centre back for the Player Profile team so let’s give him a partner. Tony Adams played his entire 19 year career at Arsenal and carved out a role as one of the most dependable players in the team’s history and arguably one of the greatest leaders.
Name: Tony Alexander Adams
Date of Birth: 10th October 1966
International Caps/Goals: 66/5
The Romford born defender joined the Arsenal youth ranks in 1980 aged 14 and made his full debut 3 years later. After 2 years as a bit part player Adams became a regular feature in the defence as a back 4 of Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Steve Bould and Adams would provide Arsenal with a bedrock for years to come. The first of the 13 competitions that Arsenal would win during the Adams era was the League Cup in 1987 with a victory over Liverpool. In the same year Sir Bobby Robson gave the 20 year old his full England debut.
In 1988, aged 21, Adams was given the captain’s armband, a role he would not relinquish until his retirement 14 years later, and continued to maintain a high standard of play. He was a key member of an Arsenal side that won the Division One title with virtually the last kick of the season as Michael Thomas had it “Up for grabs now!” against Liverpool in 1989. Arsenal were also the winners of the penultimate Division One title in the 1990-91 season losing only once all season. By this time Adams had also become one of the integral members of the England team.
Incredibly, despite playing at such a high level Adams was battling alcohol addiction, he has admitted playing at least 1 game whilst drunk, and became one of the most high profile recovering alcoholics around. It has to be said the culture around Arsenal at the time was very drinking heavy and it is to Arsene Wenger’s credit that he managed to change the culture when he took over in 1996. Adams was a big part of that, Wenger stuck with him as captain and believed that he could kick the addiction and that faith in such an important character is arguably what helped change everything about the club.
Adams rewarded Wenger’s faith by leading the club to a league and FA cup double in the 1997-98 season. Adams scored the final goal of the season to provide a perfect end to the season:
The goal epitomises Wenger’s style of play, Steve Bould plays the ball forward and it is his centre back partner Adams who gets on the end of it to score. The goal has special significance to me personally as somewhere in that crowd is a little 7 year old version of me going absolutely mental, but I digress.
Another league and FA Cup double was secured in the 2001-02 season which made Adams the only player in English football history to captain a team to a league title in 3 different decades. With the way that football is going now I would be very very surprised if that record is ever equalled. Adams retired from playing at the end of that season and began a career as a manager soon after, although it has to be said he has not been particularly successful in that aspect of his career.
Voted the 3rd best player in Arsenal’s history Adams has been given the nickname “Mr Arsenal” and was honoured with a statue outside the Emirates stadium along with Thierry Henry and Herbert Chapman. A great player and pairing him with Maldini would undoubtedly make this side tough to beat. If we’re looking for a captain I know who I’d choose.