But during ten years as Scunthorpe’s medical man, Adkins acquired 'a library of psychological and motivational knowledge gleaned from being the figure at a club who deals daily with players at their lowest,' said someone who knows him personally.
Ian Baraclough, an Iron defender treated by Adkins who went on to join his coaching staff at Scunthorpe, is quoted in an extensive Guardian blog, remembering the impact Adkins had psychologically, saying “Nigel’s always said 'you've got to have certain tools for what you’re going into’. As a physio it’s not just the knowledge of human anatomy. You're also a father figure, you’re a manager, a psychologist, a social worker: you're everything that players need. Being a physio was a perfect grounding for him – he could see certain situations as they were building. He could speak to players in a certain way so that they would feel strong coming out of the room. He did it with me as a player. It’s his whole manner; his demeanour is probably welcoming to everybody, nobody is made to feel isolated.”
But as a manager, Adkins has always had a ruthless side, desperate to achieve. His first managerial posts came with Bangor where Gwynfor Jones, then a fan who later became the club secretary, recalled, “He performed miracles. The second-last game of that first season [1993-94] we needed many goals against Haverfordwest to have a chance of the title, and we beat them 9-0. We then had to win at Porthmadog and we did. By winning the league we went into the Uefa Cup, then we retained the league quite comfortably the following year.”
Four promotions in little more than six seasons as a first team manager is an enviable record. And, perhaps unsurprisingly considering that last statistic, supporters have always taken the Birkenhead boy to their hearts. “There was uproar when he was sacked. He's his own man, he will not be dictated to about his style of football or the team that he picks,” Jones added. Then, even after Scunthorpe couldn’t stay up after their promotion as champions, United fans continued to sing, “Who needs Mourinho, we’ve got our physio!” And when he left Southampton at the start of the year, Saints fans staged a protest at the next game after his dismissal.