Opposition fans tried to unsettle him during matches with braying noises – probably inspired by a Daily Mirror article – yet he refused to be put off his stride.
They called him a lowly donkey but, at nearly 19 hands, he was a thoroughbred at the heart of Arsenal’s defence.
But his career also contained deep troughs that almost destroyed him. Yet, just like his battling performances on the pitch, he fought his way back from the brink of alcoholic addiction.
Today he is considered one of the greatest players to have graced English football, for both club and country.
Two of his managers even used Greek mythology and academic references to describe his talent. George Graham said he was “my colossus.” Whilst Arsène Wenger described him as a “professor of defence.”
To cap it all, in 2011 a statue of this Gooner hero was unveiled in front of the Emirates Stadium.
But this was in the future for 17-year-old Tony Alexander Adams, who made his debut for Arsenal in a 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland on 5 November 1983.
From this inauspicious start Adams grew too dominate the Arsenal back four; a defensive unit that included Steve Bould, his partner at centre-back, alongside full-backs Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. How Wenger must long for a similar partnership in today’s Arsenal eleven.
Then aged 21 Adams was handed the club captaincy which he held to his retirement.
His captaincy coincided with perhaps the most dramatic end of season game in living memory.
In May 1989, Arsenal travelled to Anfield needing to win by two clear goals to snatch the title from under the nose of their hosts. Their second goal, scored by Thomas in the dying minutes of the game, saw them achieve what many said was impossible and crowned League champions.
Almost as memorable was Adams goal and celebration after he had raced from the back to bury the ball in the Everton net on 3 May 1998; capping Arsenal’s first League championship under the new management of Frenchman ‘Professor’ Arsene Wenger.
But these were just two highlights in a career that included 10 major trophies spread over 19 years (14 as captain), and 669 appearances.
Adams made his international debut against Spain in 1987, making him the first player to represent England who was born after the 1966 World Cup win.
He represented England at World Cup tournaments and European Championships as well, by the time Euro 96 came round he was the country’s captain.
In all Adams appeared 66 times for England. But for injury, he could have won significantly more caps.
Since retiring as a professional footballer in the summer of 2002 – his last league game in Arsenal colours was against Everton at Highbury in May of that year – he tried his hand at coaching: firstly at Wycombe Wanderers, then Feyenoord, Portsmouth, and Gabala FC in the Azerbaijan Premier League.
But perhaps his greatest contribution to the world of football and beyond was his Sporting Chance Clinic, a charitable foundation he set-up in 2000.
Based in Hampshire, the clinic provides support, counselling and treatment for sports people with a drink, drug or gambling addiction.
Adams own battle with the ‘demon booze’ was the catalyst behind the organisation which, over the last fourteen years, has helped many others battling their own demons.
During his playing days, his style of play was often associated with that of the legendary Bobby Moore. Sadly, like Morro he was never invited to use his knowledge and experience to better the game.
But then again he doesn’t need to brag about his achievements. Just like Bobby Moore, he can simply show people his trophy cabinet. Nuff said!
Richard Bowdery writes for BobbyFC,com – the Football site with a retro twist.