DEXTER ADAMS 1925-2015

With the sad loss of past Manager Dexter Adams, who passed away recently, here is my tribute (laced with tributes from his friends and players) to a true Gentleman

A football club has DNA, it has foundation stones, and on Saturday 31st January sadly we lost a gentleman who was simply put - a huge part of the Barnet Football Club's history, heritage and family. Dexter Adams fondly respected by all who knew him, passed away aged 89 peacefully in his sleep.

Dexter Adams was the Manager at our club from 1962-1970 and was responsible for overseeing Barnet's transition from its powerful Amateur status to its feared and much revered Semi Professional one. During that period he signed numerous players who have become synonymous with Barnet Football Club, names that we have all grown to respect and feel immensely proud of.

Dexter was born in Handsworth, Birmingham in April 1925 and was a life long Aston Villa supporter. He excelled in all sports especially football, golf, cricket and hockey yet was a relatively late starter as a footballer joining Hendon in 1947 as a centre half soon developing sufficiently to represent and captain his country at amateur international level. He also travelled to Melbourne Australia in 1956 as a part of the Great Britain Olympic squad. He made over 300 appearances for the Greens including an Amateur Cup final at Wembley in 1955 before taking the reins as their Coach and guiding them to victory over Kingstonian in the 1960 Final. As one of the most esteemed characters of the amateur game he played in friendly matches for Tottenham Hotspur in the early 1950s, alongside the likes of future England World Cup winning manager Sir Alf Ramsey.
Dexter  as an England Amateur International

A professional footballers life in those times bears no resemblance to today in relation to earning potential and security and Dexter's father Bill persuaded him to forge a career outside of football and not turn professional. He worked in advertising all his life firstly for the Daily Mirror Group of newspapers, then Capital Radio and The Sporting Life and kept football as strictly “part time”. In 1968 Ricky George was one of those aforementioned Barnet players that was signed by Dexter and he perfectly sums up Dexter's approach to footballing life.
For a young footballer badly lacking in confidence and belief Dexter Adams was a Godsend. I know that I speak for other players who arrived at Underhill in the late sixties, still in their early twenties and most having trod a familiar path from the heights of the Football League to non-league. In my case, as a Barnet boy I had an added incentive. But at every previous club I had played for a depressing pattern had emerged; start well, fade, finish badly.
By having a career alongside football he adopted a different approach to the managers I had previously played under. He did his research. He spoke to Spurs Manager Bill Nicholson and others and gave himself a picture of the type of person and player I was. We discussed the reasons for my failures as one might with a therapist. He wasn't looking to see if I could run fast, or beat a man or pass the ball. He knew all that, what he wanted to do was get inside my head and start again. At 22 it was almost too late and we were both aware of that. But Dexter had me weighed up and embarked on a course of therapy that simply was to re-boot a loss of confidence that had deteriorated over seven depressing years. It worked and for the two seasons only that I played for him, he rescued a lost career”.
Ricky George 1968

Time and time again when players from that era talk about Dexter you can feel the affection in their voices. He was unique in that he would never sit on the bench but always in the stand during games, immaculately dressed, blazer, smart slacks and sometimes in his bowler hat. His attention to detail was legendary, always precise and one fantastic story told is of the run up to Barnet's FA Trophy semi final tie on 4th April 1970, the great man's 45th birthday coincidentally, against Macclesfield at Stoke City's Victoria Ground. Dexter actually took a holiday off work to get the train to Stoke to appraise the pitch surface and record its dimensions for his meticulous preparations.

Underhill in the mid 1960's was a fortress and season after season the very top players in the non league game arrived on a regular basis. Tony Brimacombe, Dennis Roach, Les Eason, Johnny Barr, Colin Powell, Billy Meadows, Barrie King (the first player to sign full professional forms with the club), Gerry Ward, Gordon Ferry, the list is almost endless. 
Athenian League Champions 1964. Dexter Adams Front Row Far Left

In Dexter's first four seasons the club won the Athenian League twice, were runners up once and after turning semi professional in 1965 won the Southern League Division One title scoring 114 times in 46 league games. The then 19 year old Eason, who played in nearly 650 games for the club, the vast majority under Dexter and scored 30 league goals in that his first season said, “ It was a league debut to dream about as the Bees thrashed Hinckley Athletic 10-1. Dexter's favourite phrase was “zip it around boys” as opposed to just knock it around and that side could really play”.
Southern League Div 1 Champions 1966 - Les Eason Front Row Second From Left
When Dexter signed ex Arsenal and Orient defender Gordon Ferry in 1968, players and supporters alike said “I can't believe we have signed Gordon Ferry!” Gordon explained to me once how simple it was to play under Dexter.
Jack McClelland would roll the ball out to Ben Embery or myself, we would by-pass Barrie King because he was the only player in that team that couldn’t pass and give it to Gerry Ward. Gerry would simply play it forward to Bill Meadows or Les Eason, it would be knocked straight back to Gerry who would then spray a perfect pass out wide to Paddy Powell on the right and he did the rest. Skipping past the full back he would knock the ball in for Bill or Les or Ricky George to score – easy isn’t it?”
Gordon Ferry 1968

Centre forward Meadows who spent two seasons playing for Dexter scoring over 70 goals told me, “ Hastings had let a large number of players go due to administration issues and I knew that Dexter had shown an interest in me so with all my old arrogance I picked up the phone! ‘Hello Dexter, how would you like to sign the best centre forward in the Southern League then?’ I didn’t have to wait long until he replied ‘Hello Billy how is your leg then?’ I had been suffering with a cartilage Injury and was actually on crutches at the time and the wily old fellow knew all about it. He sent me to a friend of his in Harley Street who was actually the doctor for The Boxing Board of Control and he sorted me out”.
Billy Meadows 1969

Goal Machine Roger Figg who spent six seasons with Dexter at Barnet remembers, “It wasn’t until I signed for Barnet that Dexter Adams really saw my potential as an inside forward. I had joined the club as a winger but the team were obviously lacking something at the time and Dexter said ‘do you fancy a go?’ I told him I would give it a try and loved it. He saw it, I didn't.”
Roger Figg 1964

The exciting winger Paddy Powell, later in his career a star for Charlton Athletic, joined the club from Stevenage as a teenager and his first meeting with Dexter is a fascinating tale.
Dexter rang me and said “would you come and meet me for a little chat”. I will always remember it because I had no idea what he looked like. I walked out of Potters Bar station and glanced around the forecourt and the only person I could see was a man in glasses, wearing a cravat and a trilby hat – that can’t be him surely? But it was! We went back to his house for a cup of tea and he told me that he hadn't seen me play but had heard great things about me – and would I sign for Barnet? I was a kid and didn't know a soul at the club and hadn't even learnt to drive but he made me feel so good about the situation”
Colin "Paddy" Powell

Centre half Ben Embery recalls, “ I was at Exeter City in Division 4 and had offers from Peterborough and Mansfield but I really didn’t see any future for me at that level, so thanks to Jimmy Lye – another Adams signing – and after a meeting with Dexter who encouraged me to use my coaching badges and find regular employment I joined Barnet as a semi pro and moved back to London. Dexter was incredible, one of the nicest men you could ever wish to meet and very very astute. I recall we lost at home and had played poorly but I had had a particularly good game. In the dressing room but without shouting he told the players exactly what he thought of them and in mid conversation just glanced over and winked at me. That spoke volumes, it just took a wink to know that I was not one of the ‘culprits’. I had been a full back at Exeter but Dexter must have seen something in my play because he put me alongside Gordon Ferry in the centre of defence and spent weeks one on one with me teaching me how to head a ball properly. I will always be grateful for the belief he showed in my abilities”
Ben Embery 1969

BBC soccer commentator John Motson, who began his journalistic career on the Barnet Press, remembers Dexter with great fondness, and tells how Barnet’s manger played a decisive part in his career. “I was deputising for the Barnet Press sports editor, who was away at the start of the 1967-68 season, and covered Barnet’s early matches,” recalls John. “I used to visit Dexter at his home in Potters Bar to get the latest club news, and one day he said to me: ‘I like what you write. You should try to get on to a bigger paper.’
The next thing I know is that Dexter had spoken to Ken Jones, then the Daily Mirror’s number one football writer, who said I should aim to get on to a provincial daily paper. That was a significant moment in my career and if Dexter had not taken an interest in me, who knows what may have happened. As it was, I took the advice, joined the Sheffield Morning Telegraph and that in turn led me to my career with the BBC.  “We remained good friends after that and Dexter always took an interest in my career. He was a great man in every sense of the word. His passing leaves a gap in my life as well as countless many others.”

 Dexter retired from Management at the end of the 1970 season when he handed over team control to his Assistant Tommy Coleman. The pressures of Southern League football becoming more and more a full time demand coupled with the loss of home life and job commitments were cited as reasons for his decision. However overtures were made towards him from Football League clubs for a full-time position and certainly Arsenal Manager Bertie Mee sought and utilised the benefit of Dexter's knowledge and guise at that point in his life. One must also remember that The Gunners pulled off the “Double” the following season of FA Cup and Football League. Co-incidence?

Dexter and his wife Sheila had settled in Potters Bar in 1959 raising three daughters Gail, Dawn and Clare and some 19 years ago moved to Peterborough and then onto Stamford in Lincolnshire. They celebrated their Diamond wedding anniversary in June 2013.

Ricky George continued “As a coach and manager he had the often used phrase 'siege mentality' about his team. That also applied to Directors of the club and anyone else he regarded as a football outsider. Like his Father, who was a companion at most games, he would not suffer fools and no one was ever left in any doubt about Dexter's opinion when he gave it. But he was a gentleman and very intelligent. There was no gratuitous bad language, no gratuitous insults hurled. If criticism was justified it was delivered in a calm and serious fashion.
Above all he was a passionate student of the game. A sounding board for Sir Alf Ramsey, for Bertie Mee and Bill Nicholson, all of whom sought his opinion regularly. As a coach he looked for players with the ability to interpret his desired style of play - hence the signings he made. For me, as a proud member of one of Dexter's greatest teams, a "well done" from the great man was all I ever needed”.  

Dexter's funeral has already been announced and will take place at Peterborough Crematorium on Tuesday 17th February 2015 at 3pm.

As the writer of this piece I will finish it by saying this. If we plucked up the courage to speak to him, young lads like me who witnessed our first live games of football at Underhill under Dexter's management, would address him as 'Mr Adams'. This was done purely out of total respect. 
RIP Dexter.

1 comment:

  1. Dexter was a colleague and a good friend both at the Daily Mirror and Sporting Life. He was one of Life's gentlemen, highly competitive, straight as the day is long and well respected by everyone that crossed his path.
    I will miss him and everything he stood for. Sleep well my friend.