Tony Adams's England Debut

Tony Adams was born on 10 October 1966. He made his England debut at the age of 20, in an incredible 4–2 victory over Spain in Madrid on 18 February 1987. On a rain–soaked night, all four of England's goals were scored by Gary Lineker, in the space of 33 minutes of game time (23rd, 27th, 46th and 56th minutes). Lineker was playing for Barcelona at the time, so ironically he was extremely popular with the independently–minded Catalans in the aftermath of the match. Emilio Butragueño had given Spain the lead in the 14th minute, and Ramon scored in the 77th to give the scoreline a touch of respectability from a Spanish point of view.

Adams's club team–mate Kenny Sansom told the Daily Mail in 2011: "Spain weren't the side they are now of course. They're incredible now. Tony Adams was very confident on his England debut. I remember his first game for Arsenal. I was the captain and joker of the pack and I said to him: 'Tone, if in doubt, panic!' But he took it in his stride. Even though he wasn't the captain you felt he was because that was the way he played throughout his career."

Spain were no mugs even in 1987 however, as England goalkeeper Peter Shilton was at pains to point out: "People talk about Spain these days almost as if they have only just acquired technically–gifted players. They were a decent side back then too and had been tipped to do well in the 1984 European Championship and the World Cup in Mexico a couple of years later. But we always felt that they were suspect if they were put under real pressure, and so it proved."

Bryan Robson, England's captain that night, remembered being impressed by the young debutant: "No wonder he went on to captain Arsenal and England because he was a great talker – non–stop throughout the game. You felt he was more experienced than he was."

Glenn Hoddle added:"He'd been doing exceptionally well at Arsenal and you could see he had those leadership qualities, even as a young man. But we all thought it was going to be a baptism of fire. It was a brave decision by Bobby Robson to give a young centre half his debut away against Spain, but it turned out to be a great night for him. There was tension beforehand, but during the game he played brilliantly."

© Haydn Thompson 2020