Tony Adams is a cult hero around Arsenal, and the general footballing world, for reasons both on and off the pitch.
Adams loved Arsenal and Arsenal loved him, and his immortal phrase will forever ring in their hearts: “play for the name on the front of the shirt and they will remember the name on the back” (quoted by We Love Football).
He was one of the last of the classic breed of English defenders. The no-nonsense kind; the hard-tackling brutes who would strike fear into the hearts of forwards; the ones you know you were you were going to have no luck against; there is no easy way around it – you will get clattered, and you will suffer.
That is what made them great – they nullified the opposition both physically and mentally, and Adams was the best at it.
The ferocious defender never played for anyone else other than the Gunners, kicking off his career in 1983 and eventually retiring in 2002 after years of dedication, blood, sweat and tears.
Indeed, the Englishman capsulated the very meaning of this phrase. The unbridled commitment to a cause he truly adored – something he nearly martyred himself to.
Amongst the sheer quality that Adams produced – the valiant performances, the staunch defensive work, the trophies, and the passion – there existed a beast that even he struggled to contain.
The former Arsenal captain has been very open about his struggle with alcoholism, a period in his life which he freely admits produced episodes of “self-loathing” and “self-destruction” and caused him to behave irrationally, sometimes urinating on himself and smashing bottles over himself (as per The Times via Mirror).
There were times he even played intoxicated: “I was named man of the match while playing drunk and that confused me for a while,” he told The Guardian last year.
“I went to a psychotherapist, trying to figure it out. He asked if ever I’d done any of 20 things to get hold of alcohol, including stealing it. I said no to that one. Later, I recalled how I’d lean over and fill up my beers from the pump while bar staff were out of shot. Back then that wasn’t stealing – that was a laugh, a crack. That’s how I justified it.”
The fact that he managed to overcome these critical issues and captain at the highest level, inspiring his teammates to four titles and five domestic cups, is what makes him so great.
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