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Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 23:44 GMT 00:44 UK

Sport: Football

Back from the bottle

Tony Adams shows who's the boss in an England shirt

Tony Adams will be the proudest man on earth when he steps up to receive his MBE from Buckingham Palace- but he'll make darn sure that the champagne is kept on ice.

Queens Birthday Honours
The Arsenal and England captain has had a roller coaster career which climaxed when he guided England to a semi-final spot in Euro 96 and sunk to the depths of despair when was sent to prison for a drink driving offence.

But on top of his undoubted ability on the pitch, it is the courage which he displays in times of adversity which has earned Adams the respect of the nation.

[ image: Tony Adams has spent his entire career at Arsenal]
Tony Adams has spent his entire career at Arsenal
His powerful displays at the heart of the Arsenal and England defences have struck fear into many of the world's top strikers and his loyalty to the Gunners has projected him to hero status at Highbury.

He reads the game so well, it might as well be the book which he wrote about his alcohol addiction, and the timing of his tackling is so impeccable, Arsene Wenger could run a most efficient bus service through him.

But no-one in their right mind will ever forget the sight of Adams being carted away in a prison van, flanked either side by police officers after he was charged for drink driving.

Indeed, those pictures which appeared in the newspapers the day after his four-month prison sentence in 1990 will live in our memories forever.

Deep regret

The look on his face as he was driven away from court to serve his time was a sorry sight and reflected a deep regret for his actions.

Paradoxically, it was the disappointment of England's semi-final defeat which sent Adams, who had managed to curb his known drink habit for four months before Euro 96, spiralling off the wagon.

He succumbed to the temptation of going for what he called "a quiet drink" after the Wembley match and next day was still drinking with friends.

But this honour is living proof that Adams has turned his live on its head, and just a few months short of his 33rd birthday, the England star has now won almost every trophy in the game as a player.

However, anyone who asks him about the vast array of cups, medals and international caps which Adams has accumulated, will be informed that none of these are more precious to the Arsenal captain than the fact that he's finally "clean."

Bad days behind him

Even though it is a fight he can never be 100 per cent sure he has won - an alcoholic is for life, not just Christmas - the bad old, mad old days of drinking are now finally behind him.

When he lifted the Premiership and FA Cup double for the Gunners just over a year ago and was asked whether it was a better feeling than all of his previous glories he had experienced before he said: "Of course it is. I can't really remember those other ones. I was drinking then."

. Adams won't pretend he has suddenly become special, nor a paragon of total virtue. On the contrary, his biggest boast would be that he's become ordinary.

Although that is not how they see him at Highbury where his club captaincy extends much farther than the pitch.

Seroius role

He takes the role seriously and has an interest in almost every facet of the club. Without prompting he will issue guidance to the youngsters who are just starting their careers, a genuinely responsible lieutenant to manager Arsene Wenger, whose place, many suggest, he may one day take.

But for now, Adams just wants to go on playing and performing for as long as he can. He wants more medals - ones he can remember earning. And a Champions League gong next season would top the lot.

For now, he'll be very happy to take the one that recognizes him as a Member of the British Empire.

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