Fiery boss will bring pas­sion to Pil­grims

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

ATEETOTALLER. A de­vout Chris­tian. A clean-liv­ing pro­fes­sional who never swears. A loud­mouth. A show­man. A fire­brand who could start a fight in an empty room. Derek Adams is a dif­fi­cult man to de­fine.

“Derek is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet,” says for­mer Hartle­pool boss Neale Cooper, who signed Adams for Ross County in 1996. “But when the whis­tle went and he crossed that white line, he was a dif­fer­ent per­son – pas­sion­ate and ag­gres­sive, with an un­break­able will to win that could get him into bother.”

Adams’ ca­reer in football is shot through with this con­tra­dic­tory mix of pu­ri­tan­i­cal prin­ci­ple and ag­gres­sive fer­vour.

As an 18-year-old at Aberdeen, he re­mem­bers lay­ing out an op­po­nent be­fore be­ing hauled to his feet by an irate of­fi­cial. “The ref said to me ‘You can’t eff­ing tackle like that’. I said, ‘You can’t swear at me like that’. He sent me off for dis­sent but some­times you’ve got to stand up for what you be­lieve in.”

Later, in a rare in­ter­view dis­cussing his faith, Adams ex­plained how Chris­tian­ity guided his be­hav­iour.

“Be­ing a Chris­tian does in­flu­ence the way I con­duct my­self both on and off the field,” he told The Goal in 2006. “I’m very aware that I need to be an ex­am­ple in the way I be­have. I find Luke 6:31 – ‘And just as you want men to do to you, you do to them like­wise’ – a very help­ful verse from the Bi­ble.”

Yet this is the same guy who, as a rookie man- ager at Ross County in 2008, punched one of his own play­ers – Sean Higgins – in a post-match flash of rage. Who saw an eight-match ban for abus­ing of­fi­cials ex­tended to 18 – or half a sea­son – when he went and did it again.

Who was caught on live TV in a fu­ri­ous bust-up with old mate Terry Butcher and so ir­ri­tated Jamie Hamill that the Hearts midfielder – a for­mer col­league – decked him on the touch­line.

What’s go­ing on? Cer­tainly Sir Alex Fer­gu­son has a lot to an­swer for. Adams’ fa­ther, Ge­orge, was Fergie’s first-ever sign­ing as a man­ager, at East Stir­ling in 1974.

Though forced to quit through in­jury at 26, the pair formed a strong bond and when Fer­gu­son moved to Aberdeen in 1978, he ap­pointed Adams Snr as his youth coach.

The young Derek would play with toys on the floor of Fergie’s of­fice, and later watch the Scot and his as­sis­tant Archie Knox do bat­tle in the games room.

“They were war­riors with an in­cred­i­ble will to win,” he said in 2012. “There’d be fights over head ten­nis or snooker. You would sud­denly hear a cue be­ing dropped or a cough to put the other off his shot. That was the games­man­ship and fierce com- pe­t­i­tive edge they in­stilled in ev­ery­one. It was to let the young play­ers know what win­ning was all about. That’s what I took from it.”

As a player, that trans­lated into ruth­less, com­mit­ted, ref­eree-bait­ing mid­field per­for­mances in the mould of dad Ge­orge.


First at Aberdeen and Burn­ley, then at Ross County (for whom he scored 53 goals in 86 games) and Mother­well, the club he joined for £200,000 in 1998 and spent his best six years.

Yet with the Fir Park out­fit per­pet­u­ally be­set by fi­nan­cial prob­lems, Adams’ thoughts had al­ready turned to life in the dugout.

By 32,he was player-man­ager of Ross County where dad Ge­orge was di­rec­tor of football. By 33, he’d won the Scot­tish Sec­ond Di­vi­sion ti­tle and com­pleted his Pro­Li­cence. By 34, he’d reached a Scot­tish Cup fi­nal, knock­ing out Celtic in the semi-fi­nals.

By 35 he’d quit to take up a po­si­tion as as­sis­tant to Colin Calder­wood at Hibs but, frus­trated by the lack of con­trol, was soon back at Ding­wall. In 2012, he won pro­mo­tion to the Scot­tish Premier League. In 2013, the Stag­gies fin­ished fifth, miss­ing Europe by a whisker.

And ev­ery step of the way, Adams was ruf­fling the feath­ers of op­po­nents and of­fi­cials, scrap­ping, bawl­ing and ar­gu­ing his way to vic­tory.

“I think Ge­orge per­haps in­stilled some of that Alex Fer­gu­son men­tal­ity from Aberdeen,” said County owner Roy MacGre­gor, the man who ap­pointed Adams in 2007 and, in Au­gust 2014, un­ex­pect­edly wielded the axe.

“It was that sense of be­ing a pro­vin­cial club bent on show­ing the big boys in the south they can com­pete. You can see the spirit they have in­stilled.The play­ers are not ar­ro­gant but have that un­break­able strength of men­tal­ity.”

It is a view Adams, who spent his year out of the game watch­ing clubs in Ger­many and Spain be­fore join­ing Ply­mouth in June, agrees with.

“There is not enough show­man­ship in football,” said the Scot, who ad­mit­ted he and Butcher had fab­ri­cated their ri­valry to gain at­ten­tion. “Not enough razzmatazz or what­ever you want to call it. We have to sell the game.


“What’s the point of a club in the high­lands hav­ing a dull man­ager? There are plenty of them in football. Peo­ple who only have some­one else’s opin­ions. I tried to be dif­fer­ent. I had an opin­ion and I gave it. I thought to my­self, ‘Not ev­ery­one is go­ing to like this’. And they didn’t.”

Adams also says the years have taken the edge off his rage, a stance en­dorsed by those with whom he shared a dress­ing room.

“I know Derek can up­set peo­ple at times,” said Alex Ked­die, who played un­der Adams at Ross County. “He is pas­sion­ate and can lose the plot. He winds ri­vals up and he is not afraid to stand up for his club or play­ers.

“But I’m sure Derek has mel­lowed. By the time I’d left the club a few years later I def­i­nitely saw a dif­fer­ence. He was still pas­sion­ate – and, don’t get me wrong, he can still boil over – but he might not re­act the same as he did when he was younger.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

DEEP IN THOUGHT: Derek Adams will be de­ter­mined to lead Ply­mouth to League Two pro­mo­tion

HEY­DAY: Derek Adams was at his best in his time at Mother­well

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