Micky Adams interview

Micky Adams has led Leicester back to the Premiership, his third promotion, and City are out of administration, too. But Adams – who has had his share of managerial knocks – believes they could be a “yo-yo side” for a while longer. He spoker to Al Needham

Leicester’s promotion is the third of your managerial career. In view of their financial problems, is it the one you’re most proud of?
They’re all the same. They all mean as much to me and the fans. But the other two promotions [Fulham in 1996-97, Brighton in 2000-01] were with sides that I’d moulded myself. Here, I inherited a side and had to motivate them after the disappointment of relegation, which was a major achievement. The hardest thing about running City this season was going into administration, in October. People we knew and respected were losing their jobs. We were trying to keep the morale going all over the club.

Did this remind you of your time at Brighton, where there was also uncertainty about the club’s future?
Yes, and at Fulham as well – when we got promotion there, they looked as if they were going to lose the Cottage. When I first went to Brighton, the fans were making a 150-mile round trip to Gillingham. All my promotions have been against a backdrop of uncertainty and lack of finances. I don’t know if I have a reputation as a trouble-shooter, but if I have I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think the hardest part of football management is spending money and spending it wisely. If you speak to the Fulham and Brighton people they’ll tell you I did spend their money wisely. I’ve not had that opportunity here yet. Maybe that’s taken a bit of the pressure off me. You only have to look at… I’m not having a go at Peter Taylor, but a lot of people thought he didn’t spend wisely and ultimately it cost him his job.

But Brighton were the biggest club in Division Three in terms of crowds and salaries. Do you feel they were over-achieving by the time you left them?
They certainly didn’t overachieve getting from the Third to the Second. They possibly did in going up from the Second. They were the big fish in the Third, in the Second they weren’t, and in the First they were at the bottom of the pecking order. I think if you look at all the clubs in all the leagues, the ones who pay the most money and attract the most fans are generally the ones that are challenging for promotion. It wasn’t the players’ fault at Brighton that they progressed quicker than the club did. A lot of the signings I made at Bright­on were to get the club out of the Third Division, and they’ve been First Division footballers this season. I’ve taken a lot of pride in that.

Should more be done to help clubs who drop out of the Premiership?

You stay in the Premiership on your own merits. After that, you take your chances. If you gamble like this club did in terms of finances and wage structures, you deserve everything you get as far as I can see. That’s not having a go at anyone, but I think this club will be better for its experiences, as it’ll understand the mistakes it’s made in the past and won’t make them again.

What do you think of the proposed Football League salary cap?

I don’t think it’ll work. All it’ll do is encourage underhand dealings by ambitious people. And the bigger clubs will turn round and say: “Why should we be forced into paying what the League decide?” I think it’s just a way of everyone playing on a level playing field, but I don’t think it ever works like that. And I think it’ll reduce the standard in the lower divisions – reserve players at bigger clubs who normally drop down on loan for regular football will just sit on the bench and take their money at the highest level.

Leicester voted against points deductions for clubs entering administration. What do you think of the idea?
I think what’s happening at other clubs is that because they’ve seen the stick that we’ve had and the possible deduction of points or even relegation – that’ll drive clubs under. Instead of going into administration and taking that option, they’ll keep going and keep going and get themselves into even more debt, like gamblers trying to win their money back, putting them in more risk of going out of business.

Do you think big clubs are more interested in “name” managers than successful lower-division managers?

I’ve been on record as saying that people like myself can’t compete against the “designer managers” who’ve had international careers. But that doesn’t worry me, because I worked my way up. I think I experienced every facet of management when this club went into administration, and I don’t think there’s anything anyone can ever throw at me now. I’m not saying I’m a better man, or a better manager than any of the others, but I’ve done it the hard way. But you’d have to ask the Premiership chairmen why they don’t look at the people who’ve learnt the job from the ground up.

Your term at Fulham ended when you were replaced by Kevin Keegan. How did that affect you?

That hurt me big time. Knocked my confidence for a long time. I didn’t feel I’d done anything wrong, but at the time I couldn’t compete with Kevin Keegan and Ray Wilkins. But in the end it’s been good for Fulham FC and Mr Al Fayed, and good for Micky Adams. It forced me into a route I didn’t necessarily want to take, but it hasn’t hurt me.

It must have been galling when Ron Noades sacked you and took over as manager at Brentford.

I wasn’t surprised when Mr Noades took over, because I knew the club was being sold. I was disappointed that we were relegated, but I don’t think we could have avoided it that year. I was just disappointed the way it happened, because I was on holiday when he took over, and I had to read about it in a newspaper. There’s a right and proper way to do things – if I’ve ever got anything to say to anyone, they don’t hear about it in the papers. I speak to them face to face. And the way it was done there wasn’t right. I wasn’t surprised when he took them back into Division Two as they shouldn’t have gone down. They had a few decent players and he had a bit of money to spend. Good luck to him. I go back to Fulham, Brentford and Brighton and get a tremendous reception from the fans. I’ve nothing to be embarrassed about.

Managers at top level are now required to qualify for a Pro Licence by UEFA. Do you feel that managers should have coaching qualifications?
Well, I’ve done all my badges. I’ve refused to do the Pro Licence at the minute, but that’s a matter of finding time. I think all these qualifications are good for your managerial education, and the people that never go on them and moan about them are missing out on a part of their footballing education that can only make you better. I don’t understand why people don’t want to go on them. It’s an accepted part of being a modern football manager.

Is there not a risk of producing a breed of managers who think and react the same way?

Not really, because once you’ve been on the course you understand about preparation and organisations, and if you can get little things like that right, it helps the club. And once you’ve been on the course, you think how you want to think and play the game how you want to play the game. They’re only giving you ideas. I’ll be on a course this summer, which enables me to stand on the touchline as a Premiership manager. I find it slightly strange that my staff can stand on the touchline without a diploma, but I need one.

Are there particular advantages to having a director of football?

Managers tend to get nervous about directors of football, and to a degree I might agree with that – but I don’t where Dave Bassett is concerned. We trust each other, and I know he’s working for me. I have the final say in buying and selling players – I have the final say in everything. Dave is a buffer zone between the directors and me. He organises the scouting, he speaks to agents, we have daily meetings about the club in general and how we can improve it. He does the jobs I don’t particularly want to do. Because we have a new board of directors who are basically fans, the good thing about Dave is that he can educate them – and I say that with the greatest of respect. I can’t see it working at every football club, because there are too many paranoid managers. But I’m not paranoid, because I know that Dave Bassett is working for Micky Adams. A lot of people don’t realise what he’s done for me and my family, so I’ve dedicated a lot of the thanks this season to him.

What are the prospects for you and Leicester?

We’re into the Premiership, I feel terrific about myself, I feel terrific about my club at the moment, but I don’t want to be disappointed next season because we’ve gone up there and haven’t competed. There has to be a significant investment in the staff and players.

The Leicester squad is virtually the same as the one that got relegated two seasons ago…
You’ve just said it all. And if you can see that, so can I.

Do you have specific players in mind?
All we’re doing at the moment is formulating ideas, speaking to agents, speaking to players and seeing what’s available. I’m sure there’s going to be a big market for players this year. I think you’ve got to have players who’ve had Premier League experience and it hasn’t fazed them. Having said that, I look at my squad and I feel we need to bring the overall age down. I may be looking for the impossible – young players with Premier League experience.

Will Leicester be in the relegation mini-league?

Yeah. How I will approach it is when we play the big boys we’ve got nothing to lose, and I would say that we must treat the victories and defeats the same – don’t get too high in the clouds when we win a game, and don’t let it affect us too deeply when we don’t. We have to remain level-headed, and we will be in a mini-league. But that’s how the Premier League is these days.

Is the gap between the top few and the rest unbridgeable?

Well, promoted clubs can succeed. They’ve just got to spend 50 to 60 million. Being realistic, we’ve got no chance of making the top six. After that, we’re all in the same boat as everyone else. At a new stadium like we’ve got, with 32,000, I don’t think we could ever get into the top six. If we put another 20,000 on the gate, we might have a chance. Look at Arsenal – they’re find­ing it difficult to hang on to the coat-tails of Man­chester United in terms of finance. And you have to remember that we’re about two years behind Charlton and the like, because we’re still paying massive Premiership wages from two years ago. So until the wage bill is reduced dramatically, we perhaps won’t be able to compete. We might not like it, but we might be a yo-yo side for the next two seasons. The simple fact of the matter is that we have 11 contracts up this season. So we’ll reduce our wage bill dramatically. But we need players’ wages to fall back into line for a club this size, and it will take two seasons to do it.

What do you think of the Bolton approach – signing players on short-term deals to guard against financial collapse in the event of relegation?
We might be going along similar lines. If we can get players in for the year on decent wages to give us a chance of surviving in the Premiership then that might be the way – so we don’t guarantee massive wages if we get relegated.

From WSC 197 July 2003. What was happening this month