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 Saturday, August 10, 2002 18:01 EST

Adams quitting soccer to study sports science


LONDON -- Former Arsenal and England defender Tony Adams has quit football to start a three-year course in sports science at university next month.

After a 20-year career in which he won 10 major trophies with the north London club and 66 England caps, he has decided his body cannot take any more punishment and has rejected the chance to go straight into football management.

"I don't think I will make a good manager or coach now. I'm just not qualified," he wrote in his column in Sunday's Observer newspaper.

The 35-year-old said he turned down approaches from five Football league clubs -- including a tempting offer from Watford -- during the close season in favour of getting a formal qualification.

"I'm tired of learning the hard way. I learned football and life through hard knocks, I think a bit of preparation might go a long way this time," he added.

He also says years of wear and tear on his knees have ruled out extending his playing career in the U.S. and he had turned down a playing contract with the New York/New Jersey Metrostars.

"I have degeneration in the bones which needs work. Arsenal were talking about a guy in America who drills into the area to stimulate bone growth, which sounds a bit horrific," he wrote.

"I've a bit of a life left and want to walk in a few years time. Enough was enough. Even if I had the op and it had worked, I wouldn't have been back before Christmas. The body's packed up on me really."

Adams's testimonial against Celtic in May, which attracted a crowd of more than 38,000, turned out to be his last game for Arsenal after nearly 700 appearances for the club following his debut as a 17-year-old in 1983.

Adams, who expects Manchester United to regain its Premier League crown from Arsenal this season, is ready for a change after winning four league titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups and a European Cup Winners' Cup with the London club.

"I wasn't ready for school as a kid," he wrote. "I only wanted to play football. Now I feel ready for education. After all the years of the physical stuff, I wanted something to stimulate me mentally.

"I'll probably be tapping on David Beckham's shoulder and asking to study how he bends his free kicks."

Adams will consider studying for his FIFA coaching license, possibly in France, after his sports science course.

"This is not a stepping stone, though. Just like learning the piano or speaking French, I am just proving to myself that I can do it," he wrote.

Adams, who is a recovering alcoholic, will continue to play a leading role in the Sporting Chance charity he set up to help sportsmen and women with addictive illnesses.

He has also accepted a job as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations cultural organisation UNESCO.

"I put 100 percent into my job and I wouldn't have it any other way. Now I'm putting 100 percent into my new life," he added.

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