NIGEL ADKINS’S seven years at Wigan Athletic featured more serious injuries than most footballers suffer in an entire career.
The double fracture of the spine he suffered in March, 1988, was the nadir, though the Birkenhead-born goalkeeper’s usually upbeat outlook on life was also tested by a broken cheekbone, broken wrist and damaged knee tendons.
In and among those setbacks, however, there were plenty of good times for someone signed from Tranmere Rovers in the summer of 1987 for the princely sum of £3,000, including the night he saved a penalty from John Barnes in front of the Kop at Anfield.
Adkins, who made 155 league appearances for the club in their Springfield Park days, returns to Wigan tonight to go head-to-head with another Latics old boy and the Hull City head coach is relishing the reunion.
“I played with Paul Cook when I was at Wigan,” said the Tigers chief. “He was class. He wouldn’t shut up. He would be talking to everyone from the middle of the pitch. It was like having a commentator all the way through the game.
“He could also run all day long and had a great range of passing. He was a really talented footballer.
Cookie ... has got them promoted and it is a tough place to go. They play good football, they are strong and they are physical. They have also got a goal threat so we know it will be challenging for us.Hull City boss Nigel Adkins
“I was probably only with him for a season before he moved on, which was a really long time ago. But he is a great lad. I am really pleased with how he has done as a manager.
“He did well at Portsmouth, getting them promoted. And he had done well at Chesterfield before that. Now he is doing a great job with Wigan.
Adkins was 28 when he left Wigan in 1993. A couple of years earlier – and mindful of those injuries that had started to mount – he had started a four-year part-time course in physiotherapy at Salford University, a career choice that would eventually bring him back into the full-time game with Scunthorpe United.
“I had seven really special years at Wigan,” he said. “I had a lot of injuries there. I broke my cheek-bone, I broke my wrist, I got a double fracture of the spine and did tendons in my knee.
“I was unlucky there but you had to deal with them. That was all part of my development and it helped me grow.”
This renowned positivity has been tested by Adkins’s first nine months at the helm of Hull. He has had to oversee a major overhaul of the squad at a time when the club has been cutting its financial cloth accordingly following relegation from the Premier League.
Results on the field have been mixed, too, with Saturday’s victory over Ipswich Town ending a six-game losing run at the KCOM Stadium.
Adkins, however, is determined to build on that weekend win tonight when City travel to the DW Stadium.
“It will be a really difficult game,” he added. “Cookie has done a really good job at Wigan. He has got them promoted and it is a tough place to go.
“They play good football, they are strong and they are physical. They have also got a goal threat so we know it will be challenging for us.
“Having got the win ourselves at the weekend, it gives us confidence going into the game. But we know it will be tough.”
Jon Toral, Will Keane, Eric Lichaj and David Milinkovic all failed to make the bench against Ipswich but could be drafted in as Adkins looks to juggle his resources.
He added: “There is a team ethos we have got and if everyone can just do their best, the team will do well. All the players buy into that culture. Competition for places drives performances and if you improve your performances you have got more chance of winning games.”
Last six games: Wigan Athletic LDWLWL, Hull City LWLLLW.
Referee: D Webb (County Durham).
Last time: Wigan Athletic 2 Hull City 2; May 3, 2010; Premier League.