Return of the Special One

First published in Sport by , Chief sports reporter

Albion fans rejoice. Seven years after leaving, Micky Adams has been given the chance to continue what he started.

The man responsible for returning success to the club will, if all goes well, lead them into the promised land that is Falmer with the team back in the Championship.

Re-wind to April 1999, on the first day of his first spell in charge of the Seagulls. Adams was paraded in a pro-Falmer T-shirt at Hove Town Hall as plans for the new stadium were unveiled.

Two and a half years later when Leicester, then in the Premiership, wanted him to become Dave Bassett's No. 2, it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

Falmer was still a million miles away and Adams could not afford to wait. He had to capitalise on his success with Albion.

Nobody blamed him, not chairman Dick Knight or an adoring fan base. It was not so much a divorce as an amicable split.

Friendships forged during Adams' glorious stint on the South Coast have endured and now the feisty little Yorkshireman is the right man in the right place at the right time.

On the face of it, Dean Wilkins has been harshly removed from his post after only 20 months at the helm, having just guided Albion into seventh place in League One in his first full season.

Flirting with the play-offs was a vast improvement on last year's poor showing, when the Seagulls were almost sucked in to a relegation battle. The bald statistics, as some of us have appreciated for some time, do not tell the whole story.

Wilkins is a brilliant, innovative coach. His fine work over a long period as youth coach, nurturing current first team regulars like Tommy Elphick, Dean Cox and Joel Lynch, won him many friends in high places within the club.

He was briefly promoted to first team coach two summers ago to placate major shareholder Tony Bloom, when Bloom launched a bid to oust Wilkins' managerial predecessor Mark McGhee following relegation from the Championship.

Wilkins, with no managerial experience, was thrown in at the deep end a couple of months later after McGhee was sacked.

The job title has always sat uncomfortably. Being manager is a much more wide-ranging role than coach, which plays to Wilkins' strengths - out on the training ground working with the players and talking tactics. Even experienced pros have learnt from him.

He has struggled with other aspects of the role, such as dealing with players and their agents in contract negotiations, player recruitment and the media.

He has been a square peg in a round hole. Becoming coach again makes the peg round.

We must all hope that, once the understandable hurt and anger subsides, he says yes' to the challenge. Knight wants him to stay, so does Adams.

At this difficult time for him, Wilkins can take a lead from Martin Hinshelwood, who worked alongside him for many years as director of youth. Hinshelwood became manager for a very brief spell. He is still at the club, continuing his good work as director of football.

Meanwhile, Adams will immediately set about the task of restoring Albion to the Championship. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since he was last here and it will not be easy.

Sceptics will point to the old adage that you should never go back and refer to Alan Mullery's unhappy second stint at the club.

That was different. When Mullery returned Albion were on a downward spiral. Adams rejoins with the Seagulls in a healthier state than when he launched their renaissance.

There are plenty of examples, too, of managers thriving second time around. One of them is very fresh and poignant.

Adams has been scouting for the last few months for my beloved Stoke City. Tony Pulis, in his second stint in charge, has just guided them back into the top flight of English football after a 23-year gap.

After they were promoted on Sunday I sent Adams a text. It said that Stoke must have a great scouting network. "You are not wrong," he replied with his mischievous sense of humour.

Little did I know that our occasional conversations are about to become much more regular again.

It was a bumpy ride for a while first time around but he knows his stuff, knows what management is all about after a dozen years worth of experience with seven different clubs.

On behalf of Albion fans, Micky, welcome back.

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