The Football League Paper - - BIG INTERVIEW: NEIL ADAMS - By Richard Rae

Nor­wich City sup­port­ers rel­ish­ing the style of foot­ball be­ing played by their club un­der Neil Adams this sea­son owe a debt of grat­i­tude to Howard Ken­dall and Joe Royle.

A classy pass­ing mid­fielder as a player, most no­tably for Ever­ton be­tween 1967 and 1974, Ken­dall took his belief that pos­i­tive pos­ses­sion foot­ball was the way to win tro­phies into man­age­ment, and steered his for­mer club to two First Di­vi­sion cham­pi­onships.

Adams, a mem­ber of the squad which won the sec­ond of those ti­tles in 1987, has never for­got­ten the lessons he learned at Good­i­son.

“When I went to Ever­ton (from Stoke City) it was one of the best clubs in Europe, per­haps the best – they also won the FA Cup and Euro­pean Cup Win­ners Cup – and ev­ery day’s train­ing un­der Howard Ken­dall was about pos­ses­sion and scor­ing goals,” he says. “The first year I was there we won the league, it was all at­tack, and the fans loved it.

“That had a big bear­ing on me, as did his man man­age­ment. He had a group of about 20 play­ers, bear­ing in mind this was in the days of one sub, and he kept us all in­volved and ro­tated, which was pretty much un­heard of then. It was an era when Liver­pool were win­ning the ti­tle for fun and us­ing 30 or more play­ers, but I think Howard used 22 the year we won it.

“Then I went to Old­ham un­der Joe Royle for five years, a much smaller club, but we played at­tack­ing foot­ball, we got at teams, we won the Cham­pi­onship (Sec­ond Di­vi­sion), got into the Premier League, reached an FA Cup semi-fi­nal, played in the League Cup fi­nal, and I sup­pose that suc­cess re­in­forced my be­liefs.

“When I used to go and watch as a kid I wanted to see ex­cit­ing games, with crosses and shots and teams play­ing with a high in­ten­sity. That’s al­ways how I’ve seen the game, as an at­tack­ing game, and I’ll al­ways send my teams out to play that way.”


See­ing a club’s sup­port­ers leave the ground happy with the re­sult and the man­ner in which it was achieved is of course the Holy Grail for ev­ery man­ager, and go­ing into yes­ter­day’s match against Birm­ing­ham City, Adams was achiev­ing both.

On a glo­ri­ous late sum­mer’s Fri­day at the Ca­naries’ train­ing ground on the out­skirts of the city, the 48-year-old ac­knowl­edged, as many have pointed out, that given the depth and qual­ity of the squad he in­her­ited, and has since added to, such a phi­los­o­phy was al­ways more likely to be suc­cess­ful this sea­son than last.

“Ob­vi­ously it’s dif­fer­ent in the Cham­pi­onship, though when I took over for the last five games last sea­son, four of which were against the best teams in the Premier League, we had a real good go and prob­a­bly de­served bet­ter re­sults.

“Yes, we have come down with a core group of play­ers ca­pa­ble of play­ing at a higher level, but oth­ers have been in the same sit­u­a­tion and strug­gled. For me the start, win­ning five games out of seven in­clud­ing three con­sec­u­tive away games, has been key. It is in ev­ery sea­son, but par­tic­u­larly so when you’ve been rel­e­gated. The first two or three games, if you’re not pick­ing up points and scor­ing goals, it be­comes tough, as we’ve seen with Ful­ham and Cardiff.

“The flip side is you can see how good the at­mos­phere here is at Col­ney, be­cause we’re win­ning games and are in a po­si­tion we like to be in. A good start helps you to build, and it’s not un­ex­pected be­cause I know the qual­ity of the play­ers we’ve got, and how hard they work in train­ing and in games.

High tempo

“Ev­ery day we in­sist on re­ally high in­ten­sity train­ing.That for me is key. If you see play­ers who are half at it, or even three-quarters at it, well, I al­ways felt as a player that suc­cess­ful teams trained prop­erly, ie at 85-90 per cent.

“You’re never go­ing to be at 100 per cent, oth­er­wise you’d be smash­ing into each other, but it has to be re­ally high tempo, we’ve in­sisted on that from the start and we’re get­ting it ev­ery day now, it’s be­come the norm.

“Then it’s about set­ting your team up in the way they can hurt the op­po­si­tion, be­ing ready for what you might face from them in re­turn, and be­ing ready to change as and when needed. As long as no stone has been un­turned in prepa­ra­tion, it’s then up to the play­ers, and so far they’ve been fan­tas­tic.”

The away wins, at Ipswich, Cardiff, and last Tues­day at Brent­ford, pleased Adams be­cause they demon­strated the play­ers were ca­pa­ble of adapt­ing their in­cli­na­tion – and li­cence – to go for­ward to achieve re­sults against very dif­fer­ent op­po­nents.

“We’re look­ing to win home and away, and in those teams we were fac­ing three dif­fer­ent ap­proaches in that Ipswich were pretty much di­rect, Cardiff tried to play, and Brent­ford got in our faces. We know there will be times you can’t have it your own way, when you have to dig in for 15, 30, or 45 min­utes, and Brent­ford in par­tic­u­lar was a clas­sic ex­am­ple of that.

“Pro­mo­tion could come down to goals scored, and we have a lit­tle tar­get in that re­spect, but one of the

pleas­ing things is we’ve con­ceded just three goals in our first five games. It’s not a case of: ‘Let’s go and win games 5-4’, I’d rather win 3-0, as we did at Brent­ford. It’s been very pleas­ing to look rea­son­ably solid at the back. But it’s the at­tack­ing third that makes fans go home smil­ing.” Even so, as de­fender Michael Turner con­firmed after the Ca­naries turned a two goal deficit on its head to win 4-2 in Wales, dur­ing half-time in that game the lev­el­headed Adams had been an­grier than he had seen. Ex­pe­ri­enced striker Cameron Jerome, a close sea­son ar­rival from Stoke City, be­lieves that in his ap­proach to the game Adams is the most pos­i­tive man­ager he has played for.

Jerome said:“The Premier League is ob­vi­ously a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, you can’t meet the likes of Chelsea with fire for fire and ex­pect to win many matches, but in this di­vi­sion he’s got con­fi­dence and belief in the play­ers’ abil­ity to ex­press them­selves and play good foot­ball.

“But he still de­mands you have to work very hard off the ball. High in­ten­sity press­ing from the front, win the ball back as soon as pos­si­ble, re­tain it, and then go and hurt the op­po­si­tion.”

One of four strik­ing op­tions for Adams, along with Lewis Grab­ban, Kyle Laf­ferty and Gary Hooper, Jerome be­lieves City’s mid­field guar­an­tees chances.

“I’ve al­ways played in sides with quite a neg­a­tive mid­field, when the pri­or­ity has been hold­ing the op­po­si­tion in­stead of hav­ing the free­dom to go and hurt them, and it’s re­fresh­ing to have play­ers con­stantly look­ing to cre­ate,” the striker adds.

“When you have the likes of Wes Hoola­han and Nathan Red­mond, as well as Alex Tettey and Bradley John­son, there’s al­ways likely to be a sup­ply of chances for the for­wards, as well as goals they score them­selves.”


The re­turn to fit­ness of El­liott Ben­nett and, im­mi­nently, Jonathan How­son, add to the op­tions in the en­gine room, and with Turner and Car­los Cuel­lar adding fur­ther Premier League ex­pe­ri­ence in the cen­tre of de­fence, Adams’ squad has for­mi­da­ble depth.

Jerome de­scribes Adams’ ap­proach as “re­fresh­ing”, and it has cer­tainly raised the spir­its of a Nor­wich faith­ful which to­wards the end of Chris Hughton’s reign, had be­come thor­oughly dis­en­chanted with an ap­proach that yielded nei­ther ex­cite­ment nor points.

Un­pre­pared to com­pro­mise in how he be­lieves the sport should be played, Adams is equally un­pre­pared to pre­var­i­cate when it comes to mak­ing clear his tar­get for the sea­son.

“To win the league. Be­cause how high do you set the bar? If your aim is top six, and you just miss, you fin­ish sev­enth, you’re out of the play-offs. If your tar­get is to win, and you just miss, you fin­ish sec­ond and you’re pro­moted.

“To me it would be dis­re­spect­ful to the play­ers we have not to set the tar­get of win­ning the league.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

POS­I­TIVE: Nor­wich man­ager Neil Adams

TOP BOSSES: Joe Royle at Old­ham and Howard Ken­dall at Ever­ton IM­PRESSED: Cameron Jerome, right

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