By Kelvin Tan
In an age where footballers kiss the badge and drop in transfer requests all within the same week, it is hard to find individuals who stay at the same club from the dawn to the twilight of their careers.
For Arsenal fans, that is what makes Adams even more special.
Tony Alexander Adams was born on 10th October, 1966, in modest surroundings at Romford. His father Alex, a roofer who had played for West Ham's reserve team, helped his son begin his career with Arsenal in 1980 as a 14-year-old schoolboy. Three years later, Adams made his debut in a 2-1 loss to Sunderland, impressing with the timing of his tackles, reading of the game and aerial ability.
Although it wasn't the most auspicious of starts, the central defender persevered, believing in his own ability, and took won his first medal with the North London club at the 1987 Littlewoods Cup Medal after beating Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley. He became the club's youngest-ever captain at the age of 21.
His efforts had also not gone unnoticed in the larger football community, as Adams garnered the PFA Young Player of the Year award, and was also picked for the English national team at 20.
It was to be the first of a cabinet full of silverware that the tireless stopper would acquire in the course of his 14 years with the armband, leading his men to 10 major trophies, including League titles in three different decades.
Of course, Adams was a class act, but he needed team-mates who shared his same ethos and commitment to the cause, and then-manager, George Graham, assembled Lee Dixon, Nigel Wingerburn and Steve Bould to form Arsenal's "Famous Four", who helped the club to the League Cup in 1986/87, and then the First Division title twice in 1988/89 and 1990/91.
There was more glory for Adam and his merry men as they became the first English side to win the League and FA Cup double in 1992/93, and lifted the European Cup Winners' Cup the year after. However, while life was good for the Englishman on the pitch, he was battling with alcoholism off it.
In hindsight, it was amazing how the defender managed to take to the ground, much less win as much as he did, amidst of all the partying and drinking that took place. As it was, pictures of Adams living it up at nightclubs were a common sight in London newspapers in the 1980s. Things soon took a darker turn when he crashed his car into a wall, and was found to have 27 times more alcohol than allowed by the legal drink-drive limit in 1990.
He was sentenced to four months prison, but failed to see the light, continuing his shenanigans, and came close to serious injury during the 1993/94 season when he fell down a row of stairs, suffering a head injury that needed 29 stitches to hold together.
While the Englishman did make an attempt to stay sober after getting married in 1992, he could not control his inner demons, and provided much fodder for the tabloids when he was caught cavorting with a stripper in the back room of a pub.
With his marriage failing, Adams was in the depths of despair, admitting: "The drink had stopped working. I needed another one. Amid the filthy state that was now my house, the first clothes that came to hand were a pair of jeans I had soiled a couple of days before.
"They were now dry and seemed in reasonable enough condition, so I put them on. A shower or wash did not occur to me. I left the house, not knowing where I was going", he revealed in his autobiography, ‘Addicted'.
There was much pain in England after the Three Lions crashed out of the semi-finals of the 1996 European Championships, but for Tony Adams, it was a moment of epiphany.
He kicked the bottle. He changed, and sought refuge in the arts and the theatre. To the amusement of his teammates in the Arsenal dressing room, he even learnt to play the piano.
The arrival of Arsene Wenger to the North London club in 1996 also proved to be serendipitous for the Englishman, as while Adams looked to reinvent his personal life off the pitch, the Frenchman worked to improve him on it.
The Englishman, speaking to the Independent ahead of a World Cup fixture in 1998, revealed the extent that Wenger had added to his game, crowing: "People say all I could do was head a ball; now I go forward and score beautiful goals.
"It's not as simple as that. If you go and look at the tapes you'll see I was a bit better than that, a player who could play a bit. I was playing a particular way because the boss (Graham) wanted me to and it was successful.
"My game might have been suffering but I was winning, so I thought, ‘why should I change?'"
He also praised Wenger for his help, saying: "I've changed now, but everyone does as they get older. I'm more experienced and the new manager has been wonderful for me."
Adam's revival, both in his personal life, and on the pitch, was encapsulated by his wonder goal for the Gunners, in a 3-0 win over Everton in 1998.
Check out ESPNSTAR.com's previous take on Arsene Wenger: 15 years of Wenger: An appreciation
Wenger's side, inspired by the form of Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, and Dennis Bergkamp, were only one game away from clinching the title.
Overmars had already sewn up the points and the title, with strikes either end of half-time, but the celebrations were not yet complete.
Up stepped Mr Arsenal himself. Striding past his usual spot in the centre of defence, he charged forward into Everton's, chested down a wonderful cross from fellow defender Steve Bould, and volleyed it beautifully into the top right corner, turning to embrace the adoration of the Highbury crowd afterward.
That season, the Gunners won their domestic double, and repeated the feat in the 2001/02 season, with Adams becoming the only player in English football history to have captained a title-winning team in three different decades.
In August 2002, just before the start of the 2002-03 season, Adams retired from professional football after a career spanning almost 20 years. It was familiar opposition as he stepped onto the pitch for the final time against Everton, and while the Englishman did not get on the score sheet, he left it to the lusty wails of Arsenal supporters singing his song ,'There's only one Tony Adams'.
Tony Adams: What they said
Arsene Wenger, Arsenal manager: "When I first came to Arsenal, I realised the back four were all university graduates in the art of defending. As for Tony Adams, I consider him to be a doctor of defence. He is simply outstanding."
Per Mertesacker, Arsenal defender: “We didn’t get many pictures of him on the television but Adams was a legend here,” he told Arsenal.com. “He is a special one for me. When I was looking at English football I always looked to Arsenal and he was one of the great defenders when I was ten or 12 years old. I knew he was the centre-half for Arsenal. I like the players [like Adams] very much."
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager: "He was making his name in the Arsenal side when I arrived at United. I remember watching him when he was a teenager in a goalless draw at Old Trafford shortly after I started. I remember thinking at the time, 'Look at the size of that kid . . . 6ft 2in and he can read the game.' I've always said that about central defenders - the best ones read the game better than anyone else on the field. You'd have to include Tony among the best. I tried to sign him once, but he'd just signed a new contract at Highbury. He was an Arsenal man, though, and it would have taken something special to prise him away.
"He's come through some very challenging times in his life and anyone who does that demands respect from everyone. He's a winner, but what I like about him is he's not an ungracious player. He's had his occasional sendings off, but he seems to accept situations for what they are.It's either black or white for him and I like players like that. They're easy to understand and work with."
And... Tony Adams on Sir Alex Ferguson: "Fergie said I was a Manchester United player in the wrong shirt - I said he was an Arsenal manager in the wrong blazer."
Cesc Fabregas, former Arsenal captain: "From what people say he was amazing. I never really saw him play because I was too young but from what people say he was amazing and everybody says amazing things about him."
Tony Adams: His career
1966: Born Romford, Essex, 10 October
1983: Makes Arsenal debut aged 17
1984: Signed as full professional by Arsenal in January after completing apprenticeship
1985: Makes first of five appearances for England Under-21s (had previously played at schools and youth level)
1987: Wins first of 66 England caps (13 as captain) in 4-2 victory over Spain in Madrid in February
Member of Arsenal's Littlewoods Cup-winning side as Liverpool are beaten 2-1 in final at Wembley
1988: Becomes youngest-ever Arsenal captain
1989: Leads Arsenal to their first league title for 18 years
1990: Plays in World Cup finals in Italy, where England reach semi-finals before suffering penalty shoot-out agony at the hands of the Germans in Turin
Jailed for four months after admitting drink-driving offences in December Serves two months of sentence
1991: After coming out of jail, returns to Arsenal side which wins championship for second time in three seasons
1993: Helps Arsenal lift Coca-Cola Cup and FA Cup with Wembley wins over Sheffield Wednesday in both competitions
Back in England side for first time since jail sentence as England slump 2-0 to Norway in a World Cup qualifier in Oslo in June
1994: Member of Arsenal side which lifts European Cup Winners' Cup, beating Parma 1-0 in final in Copenhagen
1995: European misery as Arsenal slump 2-1 to Real Zaragoza in Cup Winners' Cup final in Paris
1996: Overcomes knee injury to figure in all five of England's Euro 96 matches in a campaign which again ends in a semi-final defeat on penalties to Germany
Reports that Adams is seeking a divorce after his wife Jane is treated for drug addiction are followed by his own admission of alcoholism
1997: Hit by injury to left ankle in March and then rib injury which keeps him out for the start of the season
Played a fundamental part in the side that drew 0-0 with Italy in the Olympic stadium to qualify for France 98
1998: Wins his 50th cap for England but suffers huge disappointment when England lose to Argentina on penalties
Helps lead Arsenal to the league and FA Cup double
1999: Is an integral part of the England team that qualifies for Euro 2000
2000: Suffers disappointment when Arsenal lose to Galatasaray in the Uefa Cup final but is boosted by a second-place league position to guarantee Champions League competition next season
Is called up to Kevin Keegan's Euro 2000 squad
24 August: Named as England captain following Alan Shearer's decision to retire from the international scene
2 September: Wins his 65th cap skippering England in a friendly against World and European champions France in Paris
7 October: Skippers England against Germany in opening World Cup qualifier - the last England international at Wembley before its redevelopment - England lose 1-0 and Keegan quits as coach after the game
11 October: Adams misses the World Cup qualifier in Finland because of a recurrence of back trouble and Martin Keown takes over as captain for the 0-0 draw - Howard Wilkinson acts as caretaker England manager for the game
2001: 20 January: Adams announces that he intends to quit international football in order to prolong his playing career
August 2002: Retires from football