WELSH PREMIER FOOTBALL

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Nigel AdkinsFORMER Bangor City boss Nigel Adkins believes the Welsh Premier League is a great breeding ground for managers aiming to test their skills at a higher level, writes Dave Jones in the Daily Post.
For proof look no further than Adkins himself. The 46-year-old one-time Tranmere Rovers and Wigan Athletic goalkeeper led City to back-to-back Welsh Premier titles in the 1990s.
Now the Birkenhead-born chief is one of the most talked-about managers in the game having guided Southampton to the top of the Football League Championship in their first season back in the second-tier.
Adkins has a driving ambition to become the first man to manage in the Welsh Premier and English Premier Leagues.
But whatever heights he reaches, he will never forget his first managerial stint at Farrar Road for a club he remains in regular touch with to this day.
Adkins keenly follows the Welsh Premier and believes many of its managers are capable of bigger things – especially Bangor boss and former Tranmere Rovers club-mate Neville Powell.
“Many of them have played in the Football League already before coming down to the Welsh Premier, so they know what it’s about and it works both ways,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of good managers in the Welsh Premier, none more so than Nev who knows the league inside out.
“I’ve known him since our Tranmere days (in the early 1980s). He was a young pro and I was a youth. He’s done a fantastic job at Bangor and it doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Adkins first joined Bangor as a player at the start of the 1993/94 season, but two months into the campaign, manager Paul Rowlands accepted an offer to take over at Altrincham.
Up stepped Adkins to take over the hot seat at Farrar Road and his first season could hardly have gone better as City were crowned Welsh Premier champions and qualified for Europe for the first time since 1985.
The following season Adkins strengthened the squad with the likes of striker Marc Lloyd Williams, Kevin Langley, a Division One championship winner with Everton in the 1980s, and ex-Wrexham full-back Kevin Jones, and the title was won again in style.
Results did not go as well in 1995/96 campaign, however, and before its completion Adkins and Bangor had parted company.
However, there were no hard feelings on Adkins’ part and he remains a City fan to the present day.
“I’ve got nothing but happy memories of my time at Bangor,” he said. “We had some good players, played good football and were successful.
“Gwyn Pierce Owen (president) was brilliant for me. The respect was already there for Gwyn with him being an ex-Football League referee and he couldn’t have done more for me.
“I’m still in touch with Gwyn regularly and was delighted when Bangor won the Welsh Premier League last season.
“They nearly didn’t get there as their form dipped towards the end of the season, but they got there in the end. I sent the club a letter of congratulations.
“The fans at Bangor were amazing and made Farrar Road have a unique atmosphere all of its own.”
After leaving City, Adkins began a 10-year stint as physio at Scunthorpe, but in 2006 he became caretaker-manager after the departure of Brian Laws to Sheffield Wednesday.
Things went well and Adkins took over as manager full-time, leading the Iron to promotion from League One to the Championship at the first attempt.
Although the next season brought relegation, Scunthorpe went straight back up the campaign after and in September 2010, Adkins was installed as Southampton boss.
His penchant for instant success struck again as the Saints were elevated to the Championship at the end of last season, making it three promotions from League One for Adkins.
Now the popular boss is hitting new heights in his managerial career as the St Mary’s outfit lead the table and boast 19 straight home wins.
“We got some good youngsters, we play good football, we’ve got a wonderful stadium and supporters and we all have one focus – to get this club back into the Premier League.
“Personally that’s my ambition too – I’d lovel to manage in the Premier League.”
Bangor City president Gwyn Pierce Owen always believed he had unearthed a gem when he appointed Adkins back in 1993.
“He was always so thorough,” said Owen. “I was his first chairman and we are still good friends to this day.
“When Nigel first came to Bangor, there was no-one about when he arrived at Farrar Road, so he climbed up on to one of the walls, took a look at the ground, and decided there and then he wanted to sign.”
Owen also recalled an amusing moment when he walked in on an Adkins-led dressing room team-talk.
“I walked in and everyone was on their hands and knees like they were praying – I thought I had walked into a mosque,” he said. “It was only then I realised Nigel organised his tactics on a map on the floor, not a blackboard like other managers.
“I also remember on the team coach when I used to “pick” the team for him and when I used to tell him my line-up he’d only say one of two things “miles out” or “quite close”.
“He did wonderfully well at Bangor and I am not in the least bit surprised to see him do so well at Southampton.”
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19 August 2017

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