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Interviews

History Boys: Adam Newton

Former Saint Kitts and Nevis international looks back on the 2008/09 title-winning campaign

23 May 2019

Adam Newton’s CV makes for fascinating reading. 

He served as understudy to former England winger Trevor Sinclair at West Ham United, got promoted from League Two in successive seasons and represented Saint Kitts and Nevis, alongside current Brentford captain Romaine Sawyers, on six occasions.

But with many of The Bees’ League Two-winning side having seemingly dropped off the radar in recent years, do you have any ideas what industry Newton may have entered after calling time on his playing career? No? Adam Newton is now a full-time, fully-fledged black cab driver in the nation’s capital. And he’s worked ridiculously hard to get there.

 

LIFE ON THE ROAD

“You can’t beat being your own boss and having a bit of flexibility, which is paramount with my young family,” Adam tells BEES.

“But when I was studying for the Knowledge [a required qualification to drive black cabs in London], I found balancing everything very difficult. There’d be some days when I’d come in late from football and have to get up and go to work the next day and vice versa.

“It’s totally different from being able to rest, eat properly and then get to the game on time and be fully focused on the match ahead. I had to adjust quickly. It was a tough period of my life, but I didn’t want to veer away from it because I was focused on my future after football and providing for my family.

“It [the Knowledge] took me three years and two months to complete, but the average is about four to four-and-a-half years.

“A lot of people had to be patient with me, none more so than my wife. The kids were jumping on the map or scratching out my lines and I’d snap at them.

“I persevered with it and got my reward in the end: I got my licence, got my job and got the opportunity to be my own boss. Afterwards I managed to combine being a cabbie and a part-time footballer, which was so much easier.”

 

“I STARTED TO UNDERSTAND THAT MY FUTURE MIGHT LIE AWAY FROM WEST HAM”

The career change gave Adam – who turned 38 in December – the chance to take a well-deserved rest after a 17-year playing career in which he made almost 600 club appearances.

During this time he turned out for eight clubs, starting with an enviable grounding under Harry Redknapp and a star-studded West Ham squad that featured the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Stuart Pearce and Paulo Di Canio, to name but a few.

“There were some big names and very big characters in the dressing room,” he says. “We had a great squad.

“As an aspiring young pro, it was good to be around them and learn from them. Di Canio was one of the most eccentric, charismatic individuals you’d ever come across - what a guy, what a player. When it was time to work, he drew everyone up alongside him. 

“Stuart Pearce wouldn’t take nonsense from anyone. He was in the later stages of his career, so to see him going at that stage was inspiring. Trevor Sinclair played in the same position as me and he demanded that I became better than him, run harder than him and train harder than him - he kind of took me under his wing. He was my inspiration, my mentor, so to speak, and, even though we played the same position, I’ve got nothing but admiration for him.”

He continues: “I was understudy to Trevor for the best part of a season, so I was always on the bench and around the First Team squad. Unfortunately for me, he was quite a fit guy so he never really got injured and I had to be patient. 

“In training I had a bit of a freak accident, which put me out for two months and Harry Redknapp suggested I go out on loan and get a few games under my belt, which was fine. I was at Notts County and things were going well so I ended up staying there a little bit longer than what I would’ve liked.

“In the middle of that spell, Harry left, Glen Roeder took over and, when I came back the next season, he had different ideas. I spent the best part of a year in the Reserves, not really near the First Team squad, and I started to understand that my future might lie away from West Ham.”

DiCanio.jpg

Star-studded: With Paulo Di Canio

 

FROM LONDON TOWN TO LONDON ROAD

For the boyhood Hammers fan, his assumptions proved to be correct.

He reluctantly departed Upton Park after a loan spell with Leyton Orient and signed for Second Division outfit Peterborough United. Adam became part of the furniture at London Road, with his 249 appearances over six seasons enough to place him in the top 15 all-time appearances makers in Posh’s history.

By his own admission, the years he spent with the club weren’t the most gratifying of his career.

“Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t terrible - every club I’ve been to has had a positive impact in one way or another. I grew up very quickly at Peterborough. Coming out of Reserve Team football and working with a manager like Barry Fry at 21 years of age, you have to learn about men’s football ridiculously fast. 

“It toughened me up. It meant a lot more and the game wasn’t so fast, but it was quite physical and I had to adapt to that. It started on a low with Peterborough because we were midtable and then got relegated, but then it ended on a high, even though I left the club, with the appointment of Darren Ferguson.

“It made me understand what it’s like to win each week and maintain a level of consistency. It was a good six years of my life; it didn’t end great but that’s what happens in football. You move on and seek new chapters and new adventures.”

 

A NEW ADVENTURE

Those new adventures would begin with a season at Griffin Park.

With bags of experience at League Two level and above, Adam fit the profile that Andy Scott was looking to add as he shaped his squad in his first summer transfer window at the helm. An informal meeting in a pub was enough to convince the player to move south.

“He was nothing but positive about what he wanted to do,” says Adam. “For me, just to hear that, I said: ‘Ok, cool, I’ll give it a go’. There was the respect that he’d come this way to meet me and I said I’d do my best at whatever he needed me to do.

“I got a good vibe from some of the players that were there already. I knew Glenn Poole from mutual friends, I knew about Craig Pead from when we were younger in the FA Youth Cup days and I knew Charlie MacDonald from Youth Team football as well. We had a great pre-season, with a lot of hard work, so I understood what Andy and Terry Bullivant were about. It was just a great dressing room and I think that’s what I enjoyed the most and got to appreciate during my season at Brentford. It was fantastic.”

 

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

Having started the opening 18 games of the season and captained the side during Kevin O’Connor’s absence, Adam didn’t feature in The Bees’ starting XI until a 3-0 win over Aldershot on 27 January 2009 – a full 13 games later.

From there on in, he found himself in and out of the squad, failing to nail down a starting spot on the right flank.

That said, he started the final six fixtures and rounded off the season in style, scoring the second goal in the 2-0 win over Luton Town at a packed Griffin Park. And what a glorious strike it was. He picked up David Hunt’s square pass on the edge of the area, shifted the ball on to his left boot and curled past Luton ‘keeper Dean Brill.

“I took a little bit of stick that week; at the Darlington game Andy said that everyone had chipped in with a goal and he let it be known that I hadn’t. We’d won the league but we didn’t want the season petering out in front of our own fans. 

“We finished it off in style. I think we were just waiting for that first goal and I got the opportunity to finish the second like I did and that’s why I got a bit happy! I threw the shirt down! It was a bit of a relief and I know Hames [Ben Hamer] was happy for me, anyway, because I couldn’t beat him in training!”

Newton.jpg

 

A CHANGE OF MINDSET

It was quite a way to bow out. Whether or not the strike had any impact on their pursuit, Luton snapped him up soon after his release upon the expiry of his contract.

Luton sought to regain their Football League status after financial troubles had seen them deducted 30 points at the start of the 2008/09 campaign. The Hatters narrowly missed out on promotion at the first time of asking, losing to York City in the Play-Off Semi-Final.

In his second season, an unlikely source revealed that Adam would be without a club in the summer of 2011.

He says: “We had quite a few changes of manager and it wasn’t to be there, but I found out on the BBC that I wasn’t going to get a new deal. I was on holiday and found out on the website, so that wasn’t quite so brilliant and I found myself at a bit of a loose end.”

It was during this period that his mindset shifted, as he went on to explain.

“By then I had to think about what I’d be looking at after football: Will I get back into full-time? Do I want to get back into full-time, which was an obvious ‘Yes’. Woking were in the Conference South, so I went even lower than I had done. I could’ve gone to a club that was more local but I met up with the manager Garry Hill, who was very straight-talking and I like that. I made my mind up pretty quickly.

“That’s when I also decided to start the Knowledge. The way we started the season, we set our stall out and totally dominated the league that season. We gave people a good run for their money but Father Time creeps up on you, a few injuries take longer to heal and as Garry said, ‘Sometimes the dressing room is like your front room – you might want to change the sofa or the curtains now and again.’ I think I was the curtains!”

After 169 appearances, four goals and a Conference South winner’s medal to his name, Adam bowed out of the game following the conclusion of the 2015/16 campaign. At 35 years of age it was perhaps a good time to do so, with the spare time allowing him to dedicate his hours to his newfound profession. However, Adam concedes that being totally removed from the only way of life he’d known since his teenage years was painful.

“It hurt, not so much leaving the club, but leaving the game. I’d had 18 years of being associated with a club or a team and then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t. I was at home with the family then worked in the cab. I had no training to go to and no match to look forward to on a Saturday and I found that very difficult to adjust to.

“I did help out during a couple of training sessions, but it started to interrupt my work. I quickly realised that work was more important and that was my priority – my family came first and I wasn’t prepared to be travelling all over the place to play football. I missed it and, if I’m honest, it was only about two or three months ago that I finally got over it. 

“I’ve since played a couple of times for my cousin’s Sunday league team and I got my buzz just by playing that. There was no commitment and there was no stress, it was fun. It was a massive eye opener for me, playing on the Hackney Marshes. I got the buzz, the same enjoyment just from playing football – it didn’t matter where it was. I understand my time is done in terms of my career, but I realised that I missed playing more, rather than coaching or being a manager.”


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