Premier League Clubs Managed: Leicester City (2002, 2003-2004)
In a 19-year professional playing career, Micky Adams made 438 league appearances and experienced the Premier League as a player with Southampton. He made the step into management with Fulham in 1996 and has earned four promotions during his career. Unfortunately, his only full season in the Premier League as a boss ended with Leicester City suffering relegation in 2003-2004.
A Premier League player
Raised from the steel city of Sheffield, Adams made his playing breakthrough with Gillingham in 1978. He came through the playing ranks at the same time as fellow Premier League manager of the future, Steve Bruce and made nearly 100 appearances for the Gills before moving into the top-flight of the Football League, joining Coventry City in 1983. Again, he featured almost 100 times for the Sky Blues but he wasn’t well-appreciated by the supporters or the coaching staff and eventually moved to Leeds United in 1987. He left Coventry before their FA Cup final victory and it was actually the Midlands side that ended Leeds’ hopes of the famous trophy that season in the semi-final stage.
His most productive league spell of his playing days came at Southampton. Operating as a full-back, he joined the Saints for £250,000 in March 1989. It took him 18 months to earn himself a regular place in the team at The Dell. In the inaugural season of the Premier League, he played in 38 of the club’s 42 matches but is in the record books of the league for the wrong reasons. For dissent, he was given the red card in Southampton’s second match of the season against Queens Park Rangers. This meant he became the first-ever player in the Premier League to receive a red card.
His career in the top-flight ended when Alan Ball replaced Ian Branfoot as Southampton manager in January 1994. Ball elected to start Simon Charlton ahead of Adams and he was shipped out on-loan to Stoke City in March. Fulham signed him on a free transfer in the summer of 1994, reuniting him with Branfoot who would help Adams out with his first steps into coaching. However, it would be a real baptism of fire in which he would get the Fulham job as a manager.
91st out of 92
When Branfoot stepped down in March 1996, Fulham were sitting 91st out of 92 clubs in the top four divisions of English football. Relegation to the non-league looked like a distinct possibility so it was to be a real test of Micky’s managerial credentials straightaway.
He kept them up and in the following season, guided the Cottagers back to Division Two as they finished runners-up in the Third Division. His work won him Manager of the Season honours with limited resources to work on in west London.
In September 1997, his reward for starting Fulham’s charge up the divisions was the sack. Owner Mohammed Al Fayed decided to replace him with a higher-profile appointment as Ray Wilkins and Kevin Keegan moved into the dugout at Craven Cottage. That was four months after he had signed a five-year contract to stay on as Fulham boss.
He dropped down a division to join Swansea City but his reign there was short and not positive. He lasted a mere 13 days and oversaw just three games. Adams claimed money that had been promised to reinvest in the playing squad was not forthcoming. Before the season was out, he also had a go at managing a struggling Brentford side in the Second Division but couldn’t prevent them from being relegated. He was dismissed following their relegation with owner Ron Noades deciding to make himself the manager instead.
It is fair to say 1997-1998 was not a good season for Micky Adams.
From Brighton to Bassett
After a short break from management, Micky returned with Brighton & Hove Albion in April 1999. He arrived with the club in financial trouble, having been forced to sell their ground just to keep afloat. The only transfer fee he invested on during his time as Brighton boss was to sign Bobby Zamora for £100,000.
After leading Albion to a mid-table position in his first full season on the south coast, he led them to the Division Three title in 2000-2001 by 10 points. This led to him collecting a second Manager of the Season award. He felt though he had taken Brighton as far as he could and was disappointed to be overlooked for top-flight positions in the summer of 2001 at both Southampton and West Ham United.
In October 2001, he left Brighton to become Dave Bassett’s assistant manager at the Premier League’s basement side, Leicester City. The pair had worked together for six months at Nottingham Forest in 1998 and were brought in to try and rescue the Foxes precarious position. They had mustered just one victory in eight games at the start of the 2001-2002 campaign.
Bassett couldn’t save Leicester. The squad simply wasn’t good enough or confident enough to stay up in the Premier League. Days before their top-flight demise would be confirmed by a home defeat to Manchester United, Leicester confirmed Bassett would move into a Director of Football role and Adams would succeed him as manager. He was in-charge of the club’s final-ever match at Filbert Street which saw them defeat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on the final day of the season.
Despite Leicester propping up debts of almost £30 million on their relegation which led to a transfer embargo, Adams guided the club back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking. Leicester finished runners-up to Portsmouth in the 2002-2003 First Division.
His work received praise from the man who replaced him at Fulham, Keegan. In November 2003, he said: “I have a lot of respect for Micky Adams, who has proved himself at all levels. He has gone into clubs with little or no money to spend and shown he is not afraid of taking on tough jobs.”
A testing Premier League spell
With Leicester’s financial issues, Micky had to rely on loans and free transfers to bring players in ahead of their top-flight return. He did bring the likes of Les Ferdinand, Craig Hignett and Marcus Bent into the club but things were always going to be tough for the Foxes.
A second half collapse at Molineux in October saw them throw away a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 to Wolverhampton Wanderers and it would be the story of Leicester’s campaign. They scored plenty of goals but conceded too many. Despite drawing at home with unbeaten Arsenal, winning 1-0 away at Birmingham and 3-0 at Manchester City, Leicester’s prospects of avoiding relegation always looked grim.
In March 2004, the club made the headlines for the wrong reasons when nine players were arrested for various offences related to an alleged sexual assault on three German tourists in La Manga. Three players; Keith Gillespie, Paul Dickov and Frank Sinclair were all charged but all allegations were later proved to be false. Adams even offered his resignation over the unsavoury incident but this was rejected by the Leicester board.
In his autobiography ‘Micky Adams, My Life in Football’ published in 2017, he admitted: “There is no doubt in my mind that it had an adverse effect on my career. Even though the players did not suffer in the same way, they had other issues that were never brought to light.”
Leicester were relegated in early May after a 2-2 draw with Charlton Athletic and after a poor start to the 2004-2005 campaign back in the Championship, Micky quit the club despite the board again attempting to change his mind. This time though, they had to accept his decision.
Since then, Adams has managed several clubs in the Football League, including Sheffield United, Coventry City, Port Vale and a second spell at Brighton. He ended his football management career in 2015 with Irish side Sligo Rovers.
Since then, he has his own football consultancy business, which has led to him lecturing on the Wales FA pro-licence course and does some part-time coaching for an Under-18 side close to his home in Leicestershire.