Nigel Adkins was appointed first team coach at Hull City in December 2017 by the club’s vice chairman Ehab Allam, a few days after the dismissal of likeable Russian Leonid Slutsky. An equally likeable figure, Adkins set about bringing some organisational coaching to a squad that had recently dropped out of the Premier League and retained pockets of quality, a squad that benefited from three young Chelsea stars on loan and a squad that was sprinkled with young talent emerging from the Tigers’ academy – notably the forward Jarrod Bowen. In his first match in charge a fine comeback saw City defeat Brentford 3-2 and Adkins looked set to turn the ship around. When the Tigers then failed to win any of the next nine League games the early optimism quickly evaporated and the Tigers slumped into the bottom three. Adkins did benefit from a brief FA Cup run, wins at Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest punctuating poor League form, and when City returned to Nottingham Forest a fortnight after the Cup win and claimed all three points in a victory inspired by Liverpool loan signing Harry Wilson, shards of optimism reappeared. Following a Cup defeat to Premier League giants Chelsea, City claimed another three wins over the next nine League matches and lifted themselves out of the bottom three, then in early April 2018 two thumping wins at home to Queens Park Rangers and away at Burton Albion were enough to secure safety. The season drew to a close with a thrilling rollercoaster 5-5 draw at Bristol City and a 1-1 draw at Brentford, neatly bookending Adkins’ first season at City with twin tussles with the Bees.
Adkins entered the 2018/19 Championship season shorn of several of his former Premier League players – defender Michael Dawson, goalkeeper Allan McGregor, midfielder David Meyler and Uruguayan goal poacher Abel Hernandez. He also lost his Chelsea and Liverpool loan players but acquired reinforcements in the form of Todd Kane, another versatile loanee from Chelsea, new centre backs Jordy de Wijs and Reece Burke, and experienced figures Eric Lichaj, Tommy Elphick and Chris Martin. It was clear that the owners were keen to extract value from the club as the Premier League parachute payments started to fade and Adkins’ squad was well managed but not as capable as the one he had inherited nine months earlier. Just two wins by mid-October saw the Tigers languish in the bottom two of the Championship table so it was a considerable achievement for Nigel when his side won nine of fourteen League games between late October 2018 and mid-January 2019, a run that lifted Hull City to eighth in the table and featured a fine Jarrod Bowen-inspired 2-0 win at Leeds United and a New Years Day 6-0 cuffing of Bolton Wanderers. With talk of a play-off challenge starting to emerge City’s form eased, three consecutive wins in late March 2019 lifted the club back to ninth before a winless final five fixtures saw the club drop back to mid-table. By now it was evident that there was unrest between the club’s directors and Adkins’ management team, a suspicion that came to fruition in early June 2019 when Nigel refused advances to sign a new contract and left the club.
Nigel Howard Adkins was born in Birkenhead on the Wirral and played as a goalkeeper for Liverpool as a youngster. In the summer of 1981 Adkins left the Reds’ youth team and joined local rivals Tranmere Rovers, making his first team debut in November 1982 against Colchester United. The young keeper secured a regular first team start during March and April 1983 but was again held in reserve for much of the 1983/84 season. In the 1984/85 season he was Tranmere’s first choice goalie, missing just eight League games all season, and continued his run into the 1985/86 season. By May 1986 Adkins had made 98 senior appearances for Rovers.
In July 1986 he transferred to Division Three side Wigan Athletic, where he was again second choice goalkeeper for two seasons. He finally rose to become the Latics’ first choice goalkeeper in October 1988 and was an ever-present during the 1991/92 season. Adkins left Wigan Athletic in the summer of 1993 having made 194 senior appearances for the club in seven seasons. He joined League of Wales side Bangor City in July 1993 as player-manager and led the North Wales side to two league titles in the 1993/94 and 1994/95 seasons. He left Bangor in February 1996 having made over 100 appearances for the club.
After his spell at Bangor Nigel retired from playing and studied for a degree in Physiotherapy at the University of Salford. He was subsequently appointed the first team physio at Scunthorpe United, a role he fulfilled for seven years until November 2006 when manager Brian Laws left The Iron and the board took the uncommon path of appointing the physio as caretaker manager. Scunthorpe made Adkins’ role as first team manager permanent a month later, he proved a great success in the role with his diligent organisational skills and keen focus on high fitness standards standing his team in good stead. Nigel propelled Scunthorpe to the League One title at the end of the 2006/07 season and while he was unable to field a competitive side in the Championship during the 2007/08 season and saw his side immediately relegated, he masterminded an immediate return to the second tier via a League One play-off victory against Millwall in May 2009. Adkins’ side also narrowly failed to lift the Football League Trophy in April 2009, losing the Wembley final to Luton Town after extra time. In the 2009/10 season Adkins led Scunthorpe to Championship survival and by September 2010 he had led The Iron for 199 matches.
In September 2010 Adkins was appointed manager at League One side Southampton, a big club fallen on hard times in the third tier. He quickly galvanised the Saints and propelled them from second bottom in the table to second top in the space of four months. Fuelled by the goals of Rickie Lambert and Lee Barnard, Adkins’ side won automatic promotion to the Championship at the end of the 2010/11 season. Not resting on that achievement, Adkins took the Saints to a second successive promotion in the 2011/12 season and his reputation as one of England’s brightest young managers was secured. It was therefore remarkable when in January 2013, 22 matches into his first and only Premier League season, Adkins was sacked by the Saints’ board and replaced with Argentinian gaffer Mauricio Pochettino. Nigel led the Saints in 124 matches.
Within two months Adkins was back in full-time work, replacing Brain McDermott as manager at Premier League strugglers Reading in March 2013. He was unable to lift the Royals out of the relegation zone but led the Berkshire side to a creditable seventh place Championship finish in the 2013/14 season before being dismissed in December 2014 after a 1-6 thumping at Birmingham left his side marooned in the bottom half of the table – Nigel was manager at Reading for 80 matches. After six months out of the frontline he was appointed first team manager at League One side Sheffield United in June 2015, but an eleventh place finish was not enough for the Blades’ board and Adkins was sacked in May 2016 after 54 matches in charge. Adkins had been without a managerial job for eighteen months when he was appointed Hull City’s boss in December 2017.
Adkins left Hull City in June 2019 and for two years he focused his time on filming his daytime walks and reporting his berry-based breakfasts on social media, to the considerable amusement and admiration of several footballing circles. In March 2021 he was back on the frontline, appointed manager at League One side Charlton Athletic to replace Birmingham City-bound Lee Bowyer. His Addicks side ended the 2020/21 season in seventh place, missing out on the play-offs on goal difference, but just two wins in the opening 13 League games of the 2021/22 season led to Adkins being sacked in October 2021 after just 26 matches in charge.
In May 2023 Adkin’s career turned full circle when he was appointed technical director at League Two side Tranmere Rovers, the club where he made his League debut over 40 years previously. In September 2023 he was appointed caretaker first team manager when Ian Dawes was dismissed and was handed the role on a permanent basis in November 2023.
Date/Place of Birth: 11 March 1965, Birkenhead, England
Appointed by Hull City: 7 December 2017; 52 years, 271 days old
Left Hull City: 8 June 2019; 54 years, 89 days old
Tenure: 548 days
Bangor City (1993-1996), Scunthorpe United (2006-2010), Southampton (2010-2013), Reading (2013-2014), Sheffield United (2015-2016), Hull City (2017-2019), Charlton Athletic (2021), Tranmere Rovers (2023-current)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 78, Won 26, Drawn 21, Lost 31, Goals For 107, Goals Against 113
Achievements: 13th in Championship, 2018/19 season