THE New Saints may be the current giants of the Welsh Premier, but Nigel Adkins remembers when another side were the league’s unbeatables.
That team was Bangor City, who Adkins led to their first League of Wales title in 1994 after taking over from Paul Rowlands as manager in October of that season.
What’s more, the former Tranmere and Wigan goalkeeper repeated the feat the following season – which made it all the more bizarre that he was sacked by the Gwynedd club the following season.
Now Adkins is working his magic at current League One leaders Scunthorpe United, who look more like a Championship side with every victory.
After his predecessor left for Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the season, Adkins took over as caretaker manager and was given the job full-time in December following three wins and just one defeat in his first six games in charge.
Since then he has led the Irons nine points clear at the top after an astonishing run of 10 wins from 15 games.
Bangor fans who remember his regime will not be surprised Adkins has been an immediate success.
“I’d like to think the team we had at Bangor was a special team,” he said. “I don’t think there would have been many teams in the history of the Welsh League who have played as well as that. They were a special group of guys playing a special kind of football. I’d run a Sunday league team for 10 years since I was 18, so it was a natural progression, something that just happened,” he said of taking over at Bangor.
Adkins still brought in new faces, however, signing his former Wigan colleagues Jimmy Carberry and Steve Appleton in defence, and Dele Adebola in attack.
In the summer after securing Bangor’s first title, Adkins signed one Marc Lloyd Williams from Porthmadog. “Jiws”, who is now back at Farrar Road went on to become the Welsh Premier’s all-time top scorer.
“I got Jiws from Porthmadog, and he came along and hit it off straight away with (striker) Frank Mottram. They were both fantastic for us,” he said.
“We sold Jiws to Stockport and then he flitted around between a few different clubs, but I like to think we got the best of him. He’s still scoring goals – he was always a goalscorer.”
After another successful season in 1994-5, Adkins was sacked in 1996 following an early Welsh Cup exit and a 4-0 defeat to Conwy United. Having qualified as a chartered physiotherapist, however, he was soon recruited to Scunthorpe United.
“I was devastated by the whole situation, but I got an opportunity to go to Scarborough to work with Mick Buxton, where I could develop the skills I’d learned in qualifying as a physio,” he said.
“We’re a small club and you learn how you’re part of the management structure, you get to know lots of people’s different roles, you get to know all the problems that go on, how to deal with situations, and it’s been and advantage to learn that way. Everyone was expecting the bubble to burst– we’ve had two promotions anyway, so we’ve done ever so well, but now we could get to the championship.”
Adkins record at both Scunthorpe and Bangor speaks for itself, but one regret he harbours is he wasn’t allowed to develop a youth academy.
“I was disappointed that we couldn’t see the fruition of that at the time,” he said.
Adkins still keeps an eye on goings on in Wales – before he took over at Scunthorpe the Irons were knocked out of this season’s FA Cup by Wrexham, and he cites the performance of Steve Evans in the 2-0 defeat at Glanford Park as an example of the talent available in the Princiaplity.
“Big Evans who played for TNS did a fantastic job for Wrexham – he gave us all sorts of problems,” he said.