An appreciation thread.
Tony Adams aka Mr Arsenal. Our greatest captain, our greatest defender.
Adams made his debut as a 17 year old, and was a regular by the time he was 20. His first full season in the team culminated in a League Cup triumph, beating Liverpool 2-1 to win us our first trophy in that competition.
George Graham made the call to replace Kenny Sansom with Adams as Arsenal captain in 1988, with Adams just 21 years old. It paid quick dividends with Adams leading Arsenal to the title in 89 and 91, plus FA Cup glory in 93 and the Cup Winners Cup in 94.
As the Graham era fell away dramatically, a year under Bruce Rioch meant the unthinkable - Mr Arsenal leaving Arsenal - actually possible. When Arsene Wenger, a forward thinking manager with a far different outlook on players diets and discipline, came in the future of Adams was still questioned, this time from the point of view of the new manager. But while Paul Merson was quickly cast aside, Adams bought into the new regime and prolonged his career at Arsenal.
An FA Cup and Premier League double in 97/98 was followed by another double in 01/02. Adams had now captained his team to top flight titles in 3 different decades - a unique achievement.
That proved to be a fitting swansong for Adams, as injuries had reduced his playing time he decided to retire.
Of course, it wasn't always plain sailing. On the pitch troubles, such as a sliced volley own goal against Manchester United that led to him being labelled a donkey, a torrid Euro 88 that damaged his international career for a few years - despite scoring one of Englands two goals.
However, off the pitch issues were an even greater problem. An alcoholic who often turned up to training and even games drunk or hungover. The lowest point came in May 1990, when 4 times over the limit he crashed his car. Prison followed in December, meaning Adams missed 2 months of the title winning season and severely tarnished his reputation.
As said, Adams international career was not always happy times. Euro 88 and Marco van Basten damaged his reputation and Adams was left out of the Italia 90 squad. He missed Euro 92 with injury, and then England failed to qualify for USA 94. A home tournament in 1996, though, elevated Adams in the hearts of English fans. Captaining the side, a string of strong performances from Adams helped England reach the semi-finals. Sadly the Germans denied Adams the chance of following Bobby Moore in lifting a major International trophy.
Glenn Hoddle made the decision to hand the captains armband to Alan Shearer for France 98, though Adams played all 4 games. He remained first choice voing into Euro 2000, but only played 82 minutes before injury ended his international tournament career. He soon retired from international football, having made 66 appearances and representing his country at tournaments in 3 decades.
The one image that will always sum up Tony Adams is arms outsretched, bathing in the glory after his stunning volley to seal a 4-0 title clinching win over Everton in 1998.
Nigel Winterburn was a 24 year old left back when Graham brought him to Arsenal from Wimbledon in 1987. The Crazy Gangs fans favourite had Kenny Sansom to compete with for a place, however the right back role was vacant, with Michael Thomas and Gus Caeser being among those tried to replace Viv Anderson. Graham made the call to use Nutty Nige as right back, which he did well enough. However, his first season with us will be remembered for him missing a late penalty in the League Cup final. It was a chance for us to go 3-1 up with just 15 minutes to go. He saw his effort missed, and then Luton scored twice late on. To rub salt into the wounds, his old club went on to produce one of the shocks of English football by beating Liverpool 1-0 in the FA Cup final.
Winterburns disappointment didn't last long. He won the fight for his natural role, with Sansom not being in Grahams plans. His first season as first choice left back ended in a title, with a second coming in 91. Like Adams, he added FA Cups, a League Cup and a CWC medal to his collection before adding the 97/98 double to his collection.
With Sylvinho and a young Ashley Cole eyeing the LB role, Winterburn left for West Ham in 2000.
Despite his long and succesful club career, Winterburn only won 2 England caps as the likes of Pearce, Parker and Le Saux were favoured.
Winterburn will be remembered for 2 things. He rarely scored, but when he did they were spectular efforts. A memorable goal was against Chelsea, a last minute winner in the 98 title winning season.
The second thing is his wind up merchantry. He is often blamed for being the catalyst of the long running bad feeling between Man Utd and Arsenal, goading Brian McClair over a missed penalty and then being the spark of a brawl that saw both sides deducted points in 91. However, the enduring image of Winterburn for many is confronting Di Canio after the Italian pushed ref Alcock, then flinching as Di Canio looked at him.
Lee Dixon was playing for a pretty average, mid table tier 2 Stoke City when Graham made the call to sign him. As mentioned, Arsenal were struggling to replace the great Viv Anderson, and Dixon was signed in January 1988. He had to wait until the next season to regularly play, but his first season was with great reward at Anfield in May 1989.
He added the 91 league title, but missed the 1993 League Cup triumph after seeing red against Spurs in the semi final. He did play in that years FA Cup triumph and won the CWC in 94.
Like the others, Dixon was seen to be at risk when Mr Wenger took charge. However, Dixon soon impressed his new manager and remained a regular as he added a third title to his collection in 98, plus the FA Cup.
Dixon did win a third title, in 2002, however he was less involved as Lauren moved ahead of him. A late Michael Owen double in the 01 FA Cup final highlighted the aging Dixon was beyond his peak.
Named by Ryan Giggs and David Ginola as the toughest opponent they have faced, Dixons international career never really took off, and he never made a tournament squad. He did win 22 caps.
Dixon is his own biggest critic, stating once that " as individuals, we weren't the best players in the world" in reference to himself and the rest of the back 4.
Despite his great career, it is probably his spectacular own goals that live longest in the memory. A 25 yard chip over Seaman, a looped header over the same 'keeper. In fairness it should be noted that Dixon did also score 28 goals for Arsenal.
Steve Bould will be most known for many of Arsenals younger fans as the bald man chewing gum, looking miserable while sitting passively next to Arsene Wenger. However, he was a great, if underrated, defender for Arsenal for a decade.
Like Dixon, Bould came from a very ordinary Stoke City team. He joined in the summer of 88 as back up to the established partnership of Mr Arsenal Tony Adams and Mr Arsenal David O'Leary. His path to the starting XI wasn't easy, but he still made 30 appearances in the 89 title winning season - sometimes as part of a back 5, as was the case on that night in May 89.
As O'Learys career wound down, Bould got more and more chances. He also got various competitors for a place, such as Andy Linighan, Colin Pates and then a returning Martin Keown.
Bould was an ever-present in the title winning, only 18 goals conceded, 90/91 season, along with Seaman, Dixon and Winterburn.
Bould missed the Cup double in 93 through injury, but his legend was cemented in Copenhagen in 1994. Against a highly fancied Parma team sporting an attack of Brolin, Asprilla and Zola, Bould was key in Arsenal keeping a clean sheet and winning the Cup Winners Cup.
Mr Wenger prefered Keown, but Bould still played a big part in the 97/98 double, with 24 league appearances but only a seat on the bench for the cup final. It was Bould, playing in midfield, whose chipped through ball was chested down and volleyed home by Adams in the title sealing win over Everton.
Like Winterburn, Bould only won 2 England caps. Both ended in clean sheets.
With each player winning 3 titles in a decade, Adams and Dixon adding a 4th after the departures of Winterburn and Bould, it is one of the most succesful back 4s in English football. The 90/91 season of only 18 goals conceded was a great achievement, with 3 of them playing every game and getting through a period of incarceration for Adams. Maybe, just maybe, England may have had a better time of the early 90s if they had played these 4 with Seaman far more often.
The Famous Back 4
An appreciation thread.