Nigel Winterburn

Nigel Winterburn

Arsenal have been blessed with quality, consistent left-backs for decades. Many would argue that the best of those was Nigel Winterburn.

The Midlander served the Club for 13 years, holding down a permanent spot in 'The Back Four' during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. His professionalism and appetite for the game commanded the respect of fans throughout his Highbury career until his departure in the early months of the 21st century.  At the age of 36, Winterburn left for West Ham with his desire as strong as ever. It was testament to the player's attitude that he sought a club which allowed him to continue plying his trade at the highest level.

Winterburn was originally signed with a view to replacing the aging Kenny Sansom but spent the majority of his debut season in the Reserves. He duly impressed and earned the right to fight for a starting berth. It was no easy task, replacing a stalwart like Sansom, yet Nigel met it with distinction.

Although predominantly a defender in a water-tight team, Winterburn was not adverse to bombing forward on the left flank.  He did just that, and could finish too. Scorching drives against Chelsea and Norwich live long in the memory, as does one with his weaker right foot against former club Wimbledon in the closing stages of the 1988/89 Championship race.

But his return of 12 goals is dwarfed by the mountain of assists that Winterburn supplied.  He was superbly accurate from the byline and had a cute knack of prising open defences with incisive back-to-front passes. His set-piece delivery was perhaps most in evidence when he crossed for Alan Smith to head the first goal on that famous night at Anfield in May 1989.

On the back-foot the twice-capped Englishman was a fierce tackler and had an engine and tactical nous that ensured opposing forwards rarely stole a yard on him.

Winterburn's presence in the 'Double' side of 1998 was well merited and testament to his longevity. He spent the season seemingly defying his increasing years, eliminating signs of vulnerability which had started to creep into his game before the arrival of Arsène Wenger.

Winterburn left north London with a bag full of swag - three league titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup - and he continues to work for the Club in a broadcasting capacity.

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