Micky Adams

Former Manager Remembers: Micky Adams

In 2019, Micky Adams spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his career in football management. His achievement of taking Leicester City into the Premier League in 2003, despite the Club spending part of the campaign in administration, was truly remarkable.
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As well as management spells at Swansea City, Brentford, Coventry City, Sheffield United, Tranmere Rovers and Sligo Rovers, Micky also guided Fulham, Brighton & Hove Albion, Leicester City and Port Vale to promotion at a time when all four clubs faced very difficult challenges.

As a player, left full-back Micky played for Third Division side Gillingham, before making nearly 250 top flight appearances with Coventry City (1983-1987) and Southampton (1989-1994). He subsequently had a loan spell at Stoke City before moving to Fulham. He became manager at Craven Cottage in March 1996, taking over when they were 91st in the Football League.

Thinking back to his first managerial post, Micky reflected: “I’d been player-coach at Fulham. I got the manager’s job when Ian Branfoot went upstairs. I took over at a particularly bad time. I think we were 91st in the league. To be honest, I didn’t really want to become a manager. I was more interested in coaching, developing players and making them better.  

“I think if you are ever going to be a football manager, you should be a student of the game. When I took the job, I watched a lot of teams in that division. I studied Tony Pulis’ team at Gillingham who were at the top. I studied the way they played and the type of players that they'd got.

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Micky Adams

Micky’s managerial career began with a successful spell at Fourth Division Fulham in 1996.

"I decided that if I was going to be a success at Fulham I needed to have a massive turn around in players. So at the end of the season, when we preserved our league status, I gave out 18 free transfers and got in the type of players that I needed to be successful.”

The following season, 1996/97, Micky led Fulham to promotion, winning the divisional Manager of the Year award in the process. Despite this achievement, in September 1997, Micky was surprisingly replaced by Kevin Keegan as manager.

“Mohamed Al-Fayed came in as the new owner,” Micky explained. “He wanted a high profile name and Kevin Keegan was the name that he chose, so I was sacked. The owner was in a hurry to get from A to B. Any other owner at the time would have given me the opportunity to achieve more at Fulham, but sadly for me it wasn't to be.”

After spells at Swansea City, Brentford and Nottingham Forest (as Dave Bassett’s assistant) Micky became Brighton & Hove Albion’s manager in April 1999. The Seagulls were fighting to stay in the league and a financial crisis had forced them to sell their Goldstone Ground.

“When I first went to Brighton,” Micky recalled, “they were playing at Gillingham, which was a 150-mile round trip for Brighton supporters. Then they had an opportunity to go back into Brighton to the Withdean Athletics Stadium. The next season (1999/2000) started off very well.

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Micky Adams

Adams left Brighton to become the Foxes' assistant manager.

"We bought Bobby Zamora from Bristol Rovers reserves. That deal took some getting over the line. It was a major outlay for a club like Brighton to find £100,000 at that time to spend on a player. The chairman at the time did wonders with that deal and Bobby went on to have a glittering career.

“We managed to put together a promotion season the year after that (2000/01) going up as champions,” Micky continued. “We were in a battle with Chesterfield, but they were punished for financial irregularities. They were deducted nine points but we would still have been champions."

The following season, Micky’s Brighton side started well in the third tier and had hopes of a back-to-back promotions to the Championship. However in October, Micky left Brighton to become Bassett’s assistant at Premier League Leicester City.

Micky explained: “It was a difficult wrench to leave a team that I'd put together and which was doing well again. However, the infrastructure wasn't great at Brighton in terms of training facilities. It was put to me that I could be Dave's assistant at Leicester City with an option somewhere down the line to take over eventually as manager.

"As Leicester were in the Premier League, it was an opportunity that I jumped at. Having said that, in hindsight, and hindsight's a wonderful thing, maybe it was probably the wrong decision but at the time I didn't think Brighton were doing enough to keep me.

“I had a great relationship with Dave. It was wonderful. Dave is enthusiastic. Everything you see of him on the television is exactly what he’s like. As I’ve said, if you are going to be a manager, you need to be a student of the game. You need to learn off people like Dave.”

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Micky Adams

Adams waves to the crowd after City's final match at Filbert Street.

Building on Micky’s foundations, Brighton became third tier champions that season, achieving another promotion. Meanwhile, Micky’s new club Leicester were struggling in the Premier League, despite Muzzy Izzet turning down moves to other Premier League clubs, and the arrivals of Paul Dickov and Brian Deane.

When relegation was confirmed with four games to go, Micky took over as manager with Bassett becoming director of football at the Club.

“Working with a director of football was a new experience for me,” Micky commented. “But it wasn't anything I was particularly worried about. I think there's a lot of stigma attached to directors of football but Dave was a wonderful sounding board, and it took away a lot of the hassle of management.

"He dealt with agents on a daily basis and he tried to take as much pressure of the job from my shoulders as he could, so I was never worried about Dave while we were at the Club.

“When I took over, it was a little easier for the boys, knowing that their fate was sealed. I managed to get four unbeaten games out of them, including a win over Spurs in the historic last ever game at Filbert Street.”

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Leicester City 2002/03

Leicester's promotion winning team from the 2002/03 season.

Having triumphed at Fulham and at Brighton in very difficult circumstances, Micky then repeated the act at Leicester the following season (2002/03). It was the Club’s first at their new stadium. Financial problems were looming.

Micky continued: “At the start of the season, I had to sell about £12M worth of players, including Gary Rowett and Matt Piper, but the financial problems became greater and we were forced into administration. There was a transfer embargo as well.

"I kept the boys motivated as much as I could but ultimately it’s down to the players whether you are successful or not, and I had some wonderful players who were motivated to get back into the Premier League."

When he was reminded that James Scowcroft, one of his players that season, had said that Micky had a vision for the Club, that he was very honest with the players, that he was excellent at knitting the group together, Micky responded: “There was no point not being honest with players because all the facts were in front of us.

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Micky Adams

Celebrating clinching promotion to the Premier League against Adams' former club, Brighton.

"All I was concerned about was getting help for them, and sometimes it's easier to motivate players when they're at the top of league rather than the bottom. We were winning games of football and what we used to do every Monday morning was show them the league table and tell them what a wonderful job they were doing.

"I thought Muzzy was a wonderful player. If he'd have performed for Liverpool and Manchester United, he would have fitted right in there with the best of them. He was that good. And of course, we had Dickov and Deane scoring goals and then we had Matt Elliott and Frank Sinclair. We had some really good players.”

On Easter Saturday, with four games to go, promotion back to the Premier League was confirmed with a 2-0 home win over Micky’s old club, Brighton, in front of a crowd just short of 32,000. Izzet and Jordan Stewart were the goalscorers.   

A large picture of the team’s celebrations on the pitch after that game is currently on display in the Club’s media zone near the changing rooms.

Thinking back to that afternoon, Micky remembered: “There was a lot of pressure on us to get promoted so to do it was fantastic. The sad part was that it was a win against Brighton and it probably condemned them to relegation from the Championship back to League 1, so there were mixed emotions, but I have to say that there was also a lot of relief.”

Micky’s approach for Premier League survival the following season was to bring in experience. John Curtis, Ben Thatcher, Keith Gillespie, Riccardo Scimeca, Les Ferdinand, Lilian Nalis, Steve Howey and Craig Hignett all made their Foxes’ debuts in August.

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He brought experienced figures such as Les Ferdinand and Lilian Nalis to the Club upon promotion to the Premier League.

Explaining the thinking behind this, he said: “The only thing that mattered was that these players all came on free transfers. I’ve been told that I am the only manager in Premier League history to go into the Premier League and only spend something like £50,000 on assembling the squad.

"There was no money. Simple as that. All we could afford was the wages. Les Ferdinand, though, was a fantastic footballer. I was privileged to have him in the side. Looking back on the season in general, I was still learning my trade. I’d become Leicester’s manager at the age of 41, and I made a few mistakes, like most people do.”

In May 2004, defeat at Highbury against unbeaten champions Arsenal was City’s last game in the Premier League for 10 years. They were relegated, along with Leeds United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Home tickets for the season often sold out.

In October 2004, after a disappointing start to the Championship season, Micky resigned, despite the Club wanting him to stay. He was replaced, on an interim basis, by Bassett, (helped by Howard Wilkinson), until the Hearts manager Craig Levein was appointed.

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Micky Adams

Adams had plenty of off-field issues to contend with during his tenure.

Micky explained: “The squad was being torn apart by Premier League clubs snatching our best players. Ferdinand went to Bolton, Dickov went to Blackburn and Izzet went to Birmingham. We lost our better players.

"I had to do a lot of wheeling and dealing alongside Dave and I didn't really get the break from the game that I needed. It was a lesson for me. You need your time off, you need your break to recharge the batteries whoever you are. I felt emotionally drained. I just needed time off.

"I was under no pressure from the Club to leave. It's not often you can leave football clubs and people are thinking good things about you. Normally when you leave a club, you're out the door and everybody's pleased to see you go.”

In May 2008, after a two-year spell as manager of Coventry City, Micky returned to manage Brighton for nine months in League 1.  

“It didn't quite happen for me the second time” he said. “I suppose you go back a different person. The highlight was knocking Manchester City out of the League Cup. Nobody is happier than me to see Brighton doing what they're doing now. They've got a wonderful chairman.”

Micky then went on to manage Port Vale, Sheffield United, Port Vale again (when he repeated his achievement at Leicester by winning promotion despite the club being in administration), Tranmere Rovers and Sligo Rovers.

Leicester City Crest

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