The obvious similarity between Adams and Warnock is that after many years in management they finally got the chance to manage their ‘own’ club. They even said similar things on their appointment. On December 1st 1999 Warnock said: “I have been a United fan since I was in nappies. This is a dream come true. It is a job that has always been at the top of my list.” And on United’s league position he added: “Everybody knows that it is a difficult situation and we’ve got to rectify that as soon as possible.”
On his appointment, Adams commented: “It’s well documented that I’m a Blade and I’ve made no secret of the fact that one day I wanted to come and manage here. At Port Vale they asked me what my dream job was and I told them this one.” On the club’s league position, he said: “If you look at the position in the table then it’s a difficult job but this is a squad of players that should be doing better.”
They were similar ages on appointment – Warnock on his 51st birthday, Adams 49. Both were appointed in December with United struggling at the wrong end of the table. They came from small, unfashionable clubs with low expectations.
Warnock’s previous club, Bury, were relegated to League One that season; Adams’s Port Vale are going for promotion from League Two. Their playing careers were less than memorable, although Adams did a bit better in that regard, turning out for Leeds United, Coventry City and Southampton.
Their managerial careers showed successes, in terms of promotions, and stints at other clubs where you wondered why they didn’t do so well. Both had managed at all levels of League football so had wide-ranging experience of anything the game could throw at them. They both have reputations as motivators and they both (according to those reputations, which, as we know, aren’t always entirely correct) favour a more ‘direct’ approach to play.
Warnock was able to dramatically improve the team in his first couple of years at the same time as making a hefty profit on selling players, which was some achievement. He also turned around a previously porous defence of Rob Kozluk, Wayne Quinn, Shaun Murphy and Lee Sandford without addition into one of the tightest in the division.
Trevor Birch and McCabe will be hoping Adams can do the same, with the same scarcity of resources. Adams’s first few games were high on spirit but low on quality, although improvement was evident against Aston Villa and Norwich.
Warnock was to able to immediately increase the quality of his team by making Michael Brown his first signing, for £400,000. It’s doubtful that Adams will get similar financial backing, but he has already made steps to invigorate his squad. His has bolstered his leaky defence; an entirely necessary move. His predecessors this season shared the same misfortune in this department, with serious injuries to Stephen Jordan, Andy Taylor and, most importantly, Chris Morgan, so extra personnel were certainly needed.
The problem there now is a lack of experience. Elian Parrino (who is probably the best defensive right-back we’ve seen in the team this season and who Adams stumbled upon because he had no one else available at the club to play there) is the oldest at 22, but he’s still a novice in English football. Joe Mattock and Shane Lowry have just arrived, so Kyle Bartley (aged only 19 don’t forget) is now the ‘veteran’ of the back four.
It might be a long shot to suggest that Adams’s other major signing (if a free transfer can be called ‘major’) can have the same impact as Michael Brown all those years ago, but Michael Doyle is a similar style of all-action player who is adept on the ball, can kick with both feet and takes a mean free-kick.
No pressure then, Micky.