Adams unshakeable

 

The last time Tony Adams faced a mass press conference and was asked what he was reading, he replied: "Henry V."

England were about to play Germany in Euro 2000 and the assembled scribes could not believe their luck. "Once more unto the breach, dear friends," they wrote as one, and Adams was photographed outside wrapped in the flag of St George.

Two months later and once again Adams faces the doyens of the fourth estate. "What are you reading now then, Tony?"

"Shoot," replies Adams to roars of laughter.

But what everyone wanted him to be reading was Down and Out in Paris and London. For the tenor of expectation as England leave the capital for their next match against France on Saturday has changed dramatically from the dogged optimism that preceded that historic score-settling in Charleroi.

The pre-match mood is not the only thing that has altered. Adams is now fielding questions in his new role of England captain, the title Glenn Hoddle took off him and handed to Alan Shearer.

"Glenn had his reasons," says Adams, "and I obviously didn't agree with them," is as far he will go in expressing his disappointment publicly.

But if pre-battle cries are expected from the old campaigner, he will disappointing. "Pride in performance" will be more his line. "We need to get out there and maybe get a little bit more respect back," he says. "It's more the manner in which you play sometimes than the result."

Adams is a natural captain, which must have made his demotion under Hoddle all the harder to take. He has led Arsenal for over a decade and even when he was stripped of the title with England he could still be seen on the pitch cajoling and organising and, in the recent game against Ukraine, nursing Steve Gerrard through the fears of his international debut.

The maturing process which accompanied Adams's well-chronicled fight with alcoholism clearly broadened his experience. "Maybe I know when to be quiet and when to actually say something to certain individuals."

He describes his role as captain as Keegan's "eyes and ears on the pitch", a job he feels is more easily done by defenders. But he will not compare his captaincy style with Shearer's. "There's too many people here. No comment."

The major concerns about Adams are his age - he will be 34 in October - and his fitness - he has suffered back and hernia problems.

He meets the issue head on. "If my standards drop, I'm out the door. I'll be the first to tell you."