Ahead of the game with Leicester I wanted to write about the biggest link between the two clubs from my perspective, the one, the only, Micky Adams.
Wednesday 10th October 2001- I still remember the instant crushing feeling in my chest now when my mum woke me for school that day and then told me that the local news were reporting that Micky Adams was leaving the Albion. (and taking the currently vacant assistant manager job at Leicester as understudy to Dave Bassett with a view to taking over as manager the following season)
I had fallen in love with the Albion since their move back to Brighton at the Withdean Stadium and the period since had appeared to be an almost continuous period of progress. Gone were the days of Brighton being in danger of losing its league status come May, now they were pushing for promotion into the 2nd tier of the football league.
The club was now gaining appreciation from outside of its loyal but modest local fan base. Led off the pitch by the lovably enthusiastic and media savvy Chairman and club saviour Dick Knight, and being fired through the divisions on the pitch by the goals of Bobby Zamora (who was by then quickly becoming a club legend) people were taking note. Having won the Division 3 championship the previous season by a ten point margin after Chesterfield were deducted nine for financial irregularities, the Albion found themselves taking to Division 2 in a similarly imperious manner. Currently sitting 4th they were well set for another title challenge.
Captaining the ship was the captivating Micky Adams. A man who had been manager for just under 3 years and during that period it had been constant steps forward. Taking over in April 1999 with the club in Division 3 he steered the club to safety and then in its first season at the Withdean he led the club to a top half finish, remaining unbeaten in the final 13 games of the season.
Despite a poor start to the following season Brighton eventually got going and with Bobby’s goals and Micky’s charm, quickly built up momentum and were confirmed champions by beating nearest challengers Chesterfield 1-0 with two games to spare following a headed goal from Danny Cullip. After which Chesterfield’s points deducted was confirmed.
As a young fan who was relatively new to the club at the time, I was not weighed down by it’s recent struggles and was simply enjoying the glory. That said there was plenty to admire, but whilst there were many significant figures within the club at the time, in my eyes Micky was definitely the talisman for the team during his tenure. The man who ensured everyone would “keep the faith” when things weren’t going our way and the man who built this hard and stern team which would go on to win back to back promotions and titles.
Micky was quick to set about putting his impression on the club. He was young, enthusiastic and had plenty of character. He brought in his friend and long time colleague Alan Cork as assistant, as well as players he’d managed at former clubs such as new club captain Paul Rogers and Danny Cullip.
His assistant Alan Cork in particular was a key member of the jigsaw. A huge character and member of Wimbledon’s crazy gang, he once got in some trouble on one of Albion’s preseason trips to Ireland, but that’s a story for another day. He was Micky’s stooge and often the butt of the some cruel jokes and pranks from the players that Micky would let happen throughout their coaching careers together, all for the sake of strengthening the bond between the players.
Micky has revealed subsequently that whist succeeding at the time on the pitch with the Albion, he was dealing with heartbreak and personal issues off the pitch. These revelations only go to further increase Micky’s achievements at Brighton the manner in which he went about his job in the glare of the (albeit mostly local) media spotlight.
The success continued into Division 2. The season started with gusto, 4 wins in the first 7 included a 2-1 win over QPR and a 4-0 win over Blackpool. As such Brighton were once again proving to be promotion contenders. October came around and so did Brighton’s first and only home league defeat of the season 2-1 to Brentford. Sadly for the Albion fans this was how they unknowingly got to say goodbye to the man who galvanised the upturn in prospects for a club almost heading for the scrapheap only a few years earlier.
So Micky moved to Leicester, initially as assistant, but their relegation from the top flight would instigated his promotion from assistant manager to manager. The following season he once again he set about putting his impression on the club creating a team of winners, which went on to win promotion back to the top flight.
After Micky left and in a wonderful move of symmetry, Brighton appointed the man just sacked as Leicester manager Peter Taylor (who quickly left come the end of the season). Under his leadership, Albion went on to win Division 2, which set up a return for Micky with his new club to the Withdean Stadium the following season. However, that game turned out to be a fairly forgettable 1-0 win for Leicester. Forgettable mostly as my view was masked by a thick cloud of fog. For all I was aware it could have been 5-0 to the Albion!
Micky’s time with Brighton and Leicester reached its peak by the end of that season. Relegation and resignation would follow at Leicester who was once compared to Sir Alex Ferguson. His story is a lesson in how the harsh world of football management can quickly push you out as it can prop you up.
In 2008, following the Leicester job and some other unsuccessful spells in management, Dick Knight appointed Micky for his 2nd spell in charge of the Albion (then back in league one – previously division 2), telling the then manager Dean Wilkins to step aside and take a role in the youth set up. After the immediate excitement and splurge of new signings, it was soon clear things weren’t working out and personally I think I speak for most Albion fans to say that I was devastated.
We were terrible and produced some of the worst performances I’ve seen from an Albion team. Losing at home to 9 man Walsall and 4-0 at home to Crewe were some of the lowlights. Micky left by mutual consent in February and the Albion stayed up by the skin of their teeth.
Despite this period I will always remember falling in love with Albion during Micky’s first spell in charge. The feelings of devastation I and many others felt when he left the 1st time around and again when it didn’t work out 2nd time around just go to demonstrate how wonderful those 2 and a half years were to be an Albion fan.