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Emotional return to Anfield for Adkins
Saints manager Nigel Adkins will make an emotional return to Merseyside tomorrow when he takes his team to Anfield.
The Birkenhead-born boss and former keeper was with Liverpool as a schoolboy, before opting to leave and start his professional career with Tranmere at the age of 17.
Adkins retains a strong affinity with Liverpool and is relishing the prospect of returning to the club this weekend.
“It will be good to go there,” he said.
“I was a schoolboy at Liverpool. I had the option to stay there before I decided to go to Tranmere, which was important from my career point of view.
“We are obviously steeped in tradition on Merseyside. You’re either red, blue or the white of Tranmere.
“You are either a Liverpool supporter or an Everton supporter, but you’re always going to be a Tranmere supporter if you’re from Birkenhead.
“Going to Merseyside is going to be great for everybody and great for all our supporters to go to Liverpool, a club steeped in tradition.
“Obviously, they’re going through a transition at this moment in time, but it is a game that we’ll look forward to as we do every single game.”
An occasionally frustrating trait of Adkins for those in the business of asking questions is that he is often unwilling to talk much about himself, or recount memories from his own career.
At one point yesterday, he even pleaded to reporters: “This shouldn’t be about me and Liverpool. It should be about Southampton, shouldn’t it?”
Adkins’ defences were, however, eventually worn down and he gave a fascinating, albeit short, glimpse into life as a teenager at Anfield in the club’s glory days of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“I remember training with Ray Clemence, I remember saving a penalty from Graeme Souness in a practice game,” said Adkins, recalling what must have been quite a moment for a bright-eyed teenage keeper.
“You are alongside Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish in the small-sided games.
“As a kid you were just involved and joined in, which was great.
“It was good memories of being at Liverpool. They took us to the League Cup final when they beat West Ham (in 1981).
“You go on the bus with all the schoolboy players and young pros.
“We all went down on the coach together to watch Liverpool so that was really good.”
Adkins could have remained at the club beyond his school days, but felt he would receive greater opportunities elsewhere.
“I was a schoolboy at Liverpool and they offered me an apprenticeship,” he has said previously.
“But Bryan Hamilton, the manager of Tranmere, persuaded me into joining Rovers, saying I had more chance of getting into their first team and getting first team football.”
He was not lying, and in November 1982 – five months short of his 18th birthday – Adkins made his Football League debut, in a 4-2 defeat to Colchester at Prenton Park.
Fast forward seven seasons and Adkins made a return to Anfield, this time as Wigan’s keeper for a two-legged second round League Cup tie.
Both games were played at Liverpool, with Wigan’s Springfield ground deemed inadequate.
The highlight for Adkins was saving a John Barnes penalty in front of the Kop during the first leg.
Stopping a Souness spot kick in training is one thing, but that was a whole new level.
Wigan lost the first leg 5-2, before being defeated 3-0 in the second.
Adkins will be hoping his latest team enjoys a more favourable scoreline this time, as he makes his first appearance on the Anfield sidelines as a Premier League manager.
Whatever the result, though, it promises to be a day to savour for the 47-year-old.