The perils of technology deprived Twitter users of Nigel Adkins’s daily video diaries this week, his #breakfastwithnige pick-me-ups – pocket-sized pep talks that land on the plates of thousands every morning – sorely missed. Adkins has proved an unlikely source of calm in unsettling times and, for many, his nuggets of wisdom, be it stressing the importance of developing a structure or making the bed, have become staples. The tone of the message is always light-hearted but the former Hull City and Southampton manager speaks with an endearing sincerity.
“Having been in work and a position where you have to make decisions all day and suddenly you lose your job and then the biggest decision becomes whether to have a cup of tea or cup of coffee – it’s a drastic change, so it’s important to find a routine that works,” says Adkins. “Camaraderie is a big, big thing and when you lose that job or, if you’re a player and you’re out of contract, you suddenly lose that daily routine of going to work, exercising with players and eating correctly.
“It’s hard when all of a sudden there’s no reason to get out of bed, so you can lose purpose and easily spiral; mental health is going to be a big challenge for everybody over the coming months. Everyone is different, but you need to get your exercise, sleep, and nutrition right, and laughter is the best medicine. There are 10,080 minutes in the week: how can you organise your time as efficiently as possible and find that routine?”
With that in mind, there is really only one place to start: just what is the perfect breakfast? “It depends on the day but if I’m going to go walking, I like to have porridge; mango, which lifts your mood; blueberries; blackberries; some banana; honey; maybe some nuts over the top. Porridge is great because it’s a slow-releasing carbohydrate, so I know I’m going to have that energy through the course of the morning; I would have that for breakfast every day when I was at Hull, to keep my energy up for when I was on the training ground. If you’re not going to do as much exercise, yoghurt and fruit.”
Sometimes, Adkins says, referencing Paloma Faith’s Make Your Own Kind of Music, the cheerful backdrop to one of his videos a couple of weeks ago, and Katy Perry’s Roar, music can help set the tone. “A song can lift your mood, and that can be important. When I was the physio up at Scunthorpe I used to have an ‘Elvis day’ or a ‘Neil Diamond day’ and just play their songs. First thing in the morning I would create a disc and I’d have all sorts. Ronan Keating, I remember that one, and I’d just have loads and loads of types of different music lined up for different times. If I’m having a meal in the evening, maybe I’ll play a little bit of Gregory Porter.”
Adkins, as in those morning dispatches, is upbeat and radiates warmth, despite being down the other end of the telephone line. He does not want a pat on the back but, inspired by the approaches of the former navy Seal William McCraven and the former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, he hopes his experiences can help others.
“The feedback [on Twitter] has been unbelievable. Even if it helps one person, then it’s beneficial. We are all facing a challenging time and I’m just trying to share the experiences I’ve got and picked up, which might just help. Changing routines, attitudes and behaviours is important at this moment in time because we have all got to adapt.”
His aunt Isma died of Covid-19 on Monday night and Adkins, whose career in the dugout began in earnest at a hospital on the Wirral where he worked as a physiotherapist while player-manager at Bangor City, acknowledges the value of the National Health Service. “They do an unbelievable job and they need all the support they can get. They are our team now; we all support a football team but now the NHS is our team, the carers are our team to go and support and we have to do anything we can to support them. The less people going into hospital takes away the workload they have got and the burden they are going to be faced with, so that way they can concentrate on helping everyone with coronavirus.”
He has turned down jobs since declining a new contract at Hull last summer, when Adkins stated his and the club’s futures were not aligned. ”Leaving was the hardest decision I’ve made in football because I desperately wanted to stay,” he says, detailing how he and his wife, Angie, had designs of buying a house in nearby Beverley. He is determined to return to management.
“I’ve been at a few clubs now where I’ve experienced the hardship in terms of what I was told when I first joined quickly changed and promises became empty promises, when the goalposts get moved, but I can ask better questions now. Ultimately, I want to be back in the Premier League. How are you going to do that? You need to take a team up from the Championship, so you want to go to a club that is going to give you the opportunity to do that.”