Nigel Howard Adkins has taken a rather unconventional route to Bramall Lane, after being appointed as Sheffield United’s new manager yesterday at a press conference in London.
A former goalkeeper with spells at Tranmere Rovers and Wigan Athletic on his CV, Adkins’ managerial career actually began at 16 when he took over the running of a Sunday League team, Renbad Rovers.
They achieved numerous promotions before he took his first steps in “adult” management with Bangor City, after a spinal injury had curtailed his playing career.
But his big break came at Scunthorpe United, when he was promoted from physiotherapist to first-team manager and guided them to promotion.
It was a fitting end to an extraordinary story. Adkins, upon retirement, realised he needed a back-up option, a Plan B. He began studying for diplomas and degrees, his horizons well and truly broadened with studies in psychology, applied football management, finance and, of course, physiotherapy.
Then, after leading Bangor to back-to-back titles, his wife Angie was struck down with a serious illness and Adkins took the stable income on offer as Scunthorpe’s physio.
When Brian Laws left for Sheffield Wednesday, taking his coaching team with him, Adkins was appointed caretaker and landed the job full-time after impressing.
“Who needs Mourinho, we’ve got our physio” became a soundtrack to the season as Scunthorpe twice reached the Championship.
The achievement caught the eye of Southampton, who were in the League One relegation zone when they lured Adkins to the South Coast.
When he left, discarded in favour of Mauricio Pochettino, they were in the Premier League following back-to-back promotions.
An ill-fated spell at Reading ended in December, with Adkins then enjoying time out of the game before agreeing to join United.
He is a complex character, with a positive attitude and a penchant for buzzwords and slogans.
But if he can take them out of League One, fans of United will not care a jot.