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Tony Adams
Jade Moulds | Wikipedia

Tony Adams, Mr Arsenal, is known for many things, chiefly of course for being one of the best English central defenders of his generation. Renowned for his leadership and bravery, and for being a key part of the great Arsenal teams under both George Graham and Arsène Wenger, fans may also know him from a relatively unsuccessful career as a manager.

Some who are less interested in football may have first learnt of Adams due to his struggles with alcohol. He detailed these in his 1998 autobiography, titled “Addiction”. However, to some younger people, especially those who prefer their entertainers to be dressed in sequins, rather than football boots, Adams may be best remembered for his performance in the popular prime-time TV show, Strictly Come Dancing.

The show has a long history of sports stars taking part, with former athlete Denise Lewis runner-up in the second series, way back in 2004. Ex-cricketer Darren Gough won the following year and he in turn was succeeded by another former cricketer, Mark Ramprakash. Adams, it is very safe to say, did not go all the way on the show and, in fact, a former professional footballer has never won the prized Glitterball Trophy. Perhaps the closest we have come was Abbey Clancy, Peter Crouch’s wife, who came out on top in the 11th series. Anyway, that’s more than enough of a former Spurs player, so let’s return to Adams’ dancefloor efforts!

How Did Adams Fair on Strictly?

Adams, capped 66 times by England and with five Three Lions goals to his name, appeared on the famous dance show in 2022. This was the 20th series of the insanely popular and long-running BBC hit. He appeared alongside such “celebrities” as James Bye (Eastenders), Kaye Adams (a Loose Woman panellist) and Jayde Adams (a comedian and actress).

If you have heard of any of those three then you have a better grasp of popular culture than us, in a year when having the surname Adams appeared to be almost a pre-requisite for getting on the show. For those not into football, Tony Adams was no doubt hardly a household name but there is no doubt that having captained England in the country’s number one national sport made him far more of a star than just about everyone else involved in that series.

Mr Arsenal was paired with sultry Russian dancer Katya Jones, which might have set alarm bells ringing with his (second) wife Poppy given the famous “Strictly Curse” and in particular Jones’s dalliance with previous partner Seann Walsh. However, much as people like to talk of the curse, more often than not couples become great friends but nothing more, and Penny certainly had nothing to worry about.

Wooden Start

Adams had an unfair reputation, certainly with Arsenal’s rivals, for being a donkey, an unwanted nickname which dogged him. In fact, former England boss, Terry Venables, said that Adams was actually very skilful and technically gifted as a youngster but it had been coached out of him.

Nonetheless, as a 6ft 4in blood-and-guts defender, few expected that he would be the slickest or most elegant of movers on the dancefloor and the early signs were not good. The Arsenal legend was about as fluid as his statue outside the Emirates, though far less graceful. In the first week of the show his combined score from the four judges was just 15 points.

Adams was wooden and lacked rhythm, as you can see above, dancing to the iconic Village People hit, Go West. His posture was curious, to put it very kindly, and he looked nervous and was visibly counting in a doomed attempt to keep time. The best thing about the whole performance was the start, where the big man wasn’t dancing but descended from the studio ceiling on top of an Arsenal cannon. Whilst actually “dancing” he seemed to be doing an impression of a stick insect being electrocuted. We’re no dance experts, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t much of a tango.

He Didn’t Really Improve

We would love to report that Adams grew into the competition and had a “journey” that wooed the crowds and saw him change from a terrible dancer into a glorious one. But the fact is he showed little real improvement.

The 15 points – an average of 3.75 per judge – that he and Katya got in week one was the lowest of the round. In week two, they managed to leap to 22 points, a big improvement on the marks but not really justified on the dance floor. They remained bottom, albeit level with two other couples, but survived into week three. And week four. And on and on, all the way to week eight.

Positive Reception from Arsenal Fans

The fact that Adams was able to remain in the competition for so long was surely down to votes from Arsenal fans. As well as his initial performance, where he was dressed in a red suit with the number six on the back, was lowered to the dancefloor on a floating golden cannon and Katya had a football, Adams and his partner referenced Arsenal in other dances too.

They did the Cha Cha Cha to the Grandstand theme tune (19 points) and the Samba to the Full Monty (18 points) theme tune, including the classic Arsenal offside appeal and some rather fetching red sequined shorts. Whether it was the comedy value of his moves or the love of the Gunners, we can’t be 100% sure. But overall, he was certainly well received in general by Strictly-loving Arsenal supporters.

End of the Road

Despite scoring the lowest points from the judges in weeks 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7, it was only in week 8 (when they once again finished bottom) that Tony and Katya were in the relegation zone of the bottom-two dance-off. However, in the end, the duo were forced to withdraw from the show rather than face the music.

Adams sustained a hamstring injury in the original dance and so could not face the dance-off. He and Katya left the show and Tyler West (yes, we have no idea either) and his professional partner Dianne got to dance another day. In some ways it was a mirror of Mr Arsenal’s career, with injuries calling time on that too, but considering just how wooden his moves were, we think Adams did the club proud in the end.