David O’Leary says that Tony Adams’ “great mental strength and willpower” helped him become an Arsenal legend.
Adams burst on to the scene as a talented 17-year-old, partnering O’Leary in defence before going on to captain the Gunners and eventually England, and he remains the only player to have led a title-winning team in three different decades.
This week marks the 22nd anniversary of Adams’ Arsenal debut, and O’Leary used the opportunity to recall his very first memories of his former team-mate.
“As the Arsenal captain I remember coming in every morning and meeting this big, young, non-shy lad who would say hello to me,” O’Leary told the Arsenal Weekly podcast. “I’d think, ‘Who is he?’ but not in a cheeky way, in a very nice way.
“Then I started watching him play for the youth team and the more I saw him play, the more I thought, 'This guy could really come on and make it in the first team'. We all know that he certainly did that. He was a pleasure to share a room with.
“I played with him for a long time and it was an absolute pleasure to play with him, to know him and see how he became such a fantastic player for Arsenal Football Club.
“Tony did make mistakes but he was young and had a lot of things thrown at him. His personality, willpower and mental strength meant that he learnt from it and went on to become a great Arsenal and England captain.
“He was a very good reader of the game but also mentally very, very strong. That was where all his strength came from, because he was so mentally strong. He took knocks that were thrown at him and moved on to become a really good player for club and country.”
Together O’Leary and Adams made more than 1,000 appearances for Arsenal, and the former Republic of Ireland defender says both of them still hold the club very close to their hearts.
“Every time I walk past the Emirates I think of how lucky I was to be a young player coming over from Ireland and getting a chance to play for Arsenal,” he said. “I’ve got a big picture outside like so many other famous players.
“Tony, like myself, will be so grateful that we’re talked about as great servants to Arsenal Football Club. The club made me and I’m sure Tony will say the same thing about himself. We’re so grateful that we were able to play so many games for such a great club.”
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