About Nigel Adkins
Growing up in Birkenhead, on the Wirral in North West England, the only thing I ever wanted to do was play sport. I loved playing basketball, rugby, football, cricket and athletics. I was lucky enough to play most to a pretty decent standard. But, like other boys my age, what I enjoyed most was football.
I was big for my age, and mad keen on the sport, so was quickly put to use as a goalkeeper, which is where I stayed.
On Merseyside, no matter your age, sex or religion, there are three footballing clubs; follow the red of Liverpool, get behind the blue of Everton and you also support the white of Tranmere.
I chose red which meant when the opportunity to sign for the club as a schoolboy came along I jumped at it.
Who wouldn’t have?
The club’s dominance of Europe was just beginning helped first by the uncompromising defensive style of Tommy Smith and later by the addition of footballing greats, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, and Alan Hansen.
In 1977, in Rome, Liverpool became only the second English side ever to lift the European Cup a feat repeated the following year.
I signed on March 15th 1979, four days past my 14th birthday.
At 16 I left school and, having been presented with the golden opportunity of playing first team football, signed as an Apprentice Professional for Tranmere Rovers.
It was July 1981.
A little over 16 months later, on November 13th 1982, aged 17, I made my first team debut against Colchester. United.
Like many professional footballers I had my share of injuries including twice fracturing a finger and then my right cheek bone while playing away at Southend United in 1985.
In the summer of 1986, now 21, the Division 3 club Wigan Athletic (Tranmere were in Division 4 at the time) bought me for £3,000.
At Wigan the injuries kept coming, the scaphoid bone in my wrist in 1986 and the other cheekbone in 1987. But even these were relatively minor compared to what lay ahead - in March 1988 I fractured my spine, which meant a spinal fusion, and then needed an operation to repair the patella tendon in my knee.
Although incredibly young, and with what should have been many more years of playing time ahead, I knew I had a difficult decision to make.
While playing at Wigan I’d started a four year part-time degree course in Physiotherapy at Salford University to ensure I could provide for my wife and young family after my playing days were over.
At the end of my contract with Wigan, which was half way through my degree course, I decided to go part-time and chose to join Bangor City in the League of Wales in August 1993 as a player.
Within months I’d taken over as Player Manager and by the end of the season we were the Konica League of Wales Champions.
The following season - 1994/1995 - we won again and played in the Cup Final all of which gave us a spot in the European Cup.
Not a bad start to a career in football management.
The move to Wales proved an excellent decision as, apart from success on the pitch and the honour of being asked to manage the League of Wales representative team, I completed my Physiotherapy degree and passed my UEFA A Advanced Coaching Licence.
By now it was the summer of 1996 and having been offered, and accepted, the physiotherapist’s job at Scunthorpe we moved to Lincolnshire.
I still played in goal when I could - including making a crucial penalty save against local rivals Grimsby Town, to win the Lincolnshire Senior Cup.
By now I was combining my role as Club Physiotherapist with goalkeeping and fitness coaching as well as helping out preparing the kit for matches. I also completed my Sports Psychology diploma which continues to be very beneficial to this day.
In 1999, playing at Wembley before it was demolished and rebuilt, we secured promotion to League 1 through the play offs. That day is just one of many happy memories from my time at Scunthorpe including finishing Runners-Up in League 2 in 2005.
And then, in November 2006, after 10 years as a physiotherapist, I was appointed Manager.
Six months later we were Champions of League 1 and the club were heading into the Championship.
We were relegated from the Championship in 2008 but went straight back up in 2009 after winning the play offs at Wembley. We stayed up in 2010 which, to this day, is one of my proudest achievements.
By now I’d added a Certificate in Applied Management from Warwick University and my UEFA Pro Licence coaching qualification to my academic and professional qualifications as I think it’s important to have both.
In 2010, after a good start with Scunthorpe, I joined Southampton who were then sitting 23rd in League 1. By the end of the 2011 we were Runners-Up meaning automatic promotion to the Championship.
The very next season we went back to the Premier League again finishing Runners-Up, this time to Reading.
Sadly I left Southampton in February 2013 with us 15th in the Premier League, having risen 51 places from when i took over.
A month later I joined Reading in the Premier League. I left Reading in December 2014 and took some time to reflect before deciding what challenge to take on next. The opportunity to manage Sheffield United in League 1 was too big to turn down, sadly it only lasted a season. I returned to Club Management in December 2017 with Hull City in the Championship successfully avoiding relegation. Many lessons have been learnt and much experience gained over the years.
Even though I’ve been lucky enough to be a player, physiotherapist and manager I think it's the managing side of the game that's in my genes. As a teenager playing for Tranmere Rovers I managed Renbad Rovers in Division 4 of the Birkenhead Sunday League. We moved up the divisions winning the League 1 title and Cup double, and then competing in the Premier Division.
Maybe once a manager always a manager…..