At the centre of Nigel Adkins’ philosophy is people. Not just the centre of his coaching philosophy, it’s the centre of how he lives his entire life. Although truthfully, for someone who has devoted much of his life to management, there isn’t a great deal of separation between his coaching life and everything else.

“It’s helping people,” Adkins answers as to what drives him on as a manager. “How can you get a group of individuals to accept every ounce of potential they have?

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“I think you just need to be authentic in life and you need to know yourself. We’re all different and listen to other people, understand them and how you can relate to them and help them.

“It’s harrowing when you look at the news of what’s going on. The economic crisis…it’s tough, we all need a bit of support. It goes a helluva long way. Just sharing a bit of time with someone, to listen. Maybe you don’t think you’re helping but just listening is helping. 

“Young men suicide is a massive thing and you’ve just got to try and help people navigate through this horrible world we live in. It’s a VUCA world - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous - that we live in. There’s always an issue whether you’ve got loads of money or no money, there’s always a problem to solve and once you solve one problem there’s another. That’s life as a manager, once you solve one problem there’s always another.”

Daily Echo: Adkins celebrates Saints' promotion from League One. Image by: PAAdkins celebrates Saints' promotion from League One. Image by: PA

Long before arriving on the South Coast in 2010, Adkins’ life was driven by the energy given and taken from the people around him. His trademark positivity would become a defining characteristic around St Mary's and it’s something that's always been an innate part of who he is, but also grown considerably thanks to the people who have influenced him, people across every walk of life inside football and out of the game.

A unique career trajectory saw Adkins go from goalkeeper at Tranmere Rovers and Wigan Athletic to player-manager at Welsh side Bangor City. After hanging up his boots, Adkins went back to school to get his physiotherapy qualification before becoming a practising physio at Scunthorpe upon graduating.

By the time Saints came calling following Alan Pardew’s departure, Adkins had been elevated to Scunthorpe first-team manager, twice winning promotion to the Championship with the Iron.

“Fitness coach, goalkeeping coach, physio, I did it all,” he says. “I had a key to every room in the building at Scunthorpe, when I first went there there was nothing. It was great, you knew everything that went on behind the scenes and it’s helped me down the line because you appreciate all the members of staff and the roles they’ve got and how important they are and how you can bring them all together. 

Daily Echo: Adkins with Rickie Lambert during their time with Saints. Image by: PAAdkins with Rickie Lambert during their time with Saints. Image by: PA

“When I took over at Southampton, all of a sudden I’ve got loads of members of staff but I’d done everything so I could turn around and say ‘I’ve done your job, I’ve done your job, I’ve done your job.’ So I can appreciate the issues you each have and you’re all valued. 

“I’d go on the coaching courses where they’d slag off the physios, I’d been on the physio courses where they slag off the coaches. Everyone thinks they’re more important than everyone else but everyone’s got to work together and we have a finite amount of time to extract every ounce of potential out of the players.”

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This is the key to Adkins’ people-first coaching philosophy. He not only believes it’s the right way to treat people - with the respect that acknowledges they are indeed valued - but he also believes it’s the right way to find success on the pitch, the right way to win.

He tells one story of an experienced ex-Premier League player who was dealing with issues at home but felt he couldn’t say anything for fear of showing vulnerability. He recalls another player who he would go on regular walks with at Southampton just so they could have a real conversation without the weight and pressure of the manager-player relationship.

Daily Echo: Adkins pictured during his time managing Charlton. Image by: PAAdkins pictured during his time managing Charlton. Image by: PA

Of course, while Adkins feels the proof of his methods came in the growth of his players as people, from the outside the concrete proof came in the form of results. 

The back-to-back promotions with Saints took his career tally to four and while his professional life hasn’t quite reached those heights since his Southampton sacking in January 2013, he looks back at the jobs he did with Hull City and Reading with pride after helping them navigate supremely choppy waters to survive in the Championship.

Adkins has been out of management since being let go by Charlton Athletic last October but he’s made sure to keep busy. He travels the world giving talks on motivation while taking part in leadership conferences.

But he mostly acts as a “truth-teller” these days, helping share his experience and knowledge as a mentor to young coaches. In such a competitive world, Adkins acts as a guide, asking the right questions and offering his thoughts while letting the young coaches forge their own paths.

Adkins refuses to rule out a return to management but regardless of what his future holds, he will most certainly stay busy, no doubt doing what he can to continue learning from and helping others.

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