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Monday 23 April 2012

20 Seasons Awards: Nigel Winterburn's Fantasy defence

Former Arsenal and West Ham star picks his dream Premier League back four

Arsenal legend Nigel Winterburn picks his all-time Premier League Fantasy Team defence


As part of the Premier League's 20 Seasons Awards, fans from around the world and a panel of football experts will choose the perfect Fantasy Team from the history of the competition.

Nigel Winterburn spent 11 seasons as a left-back in the Premier League, eight with Arsenal and three more at West Ham, with the twice-capped England defender winning the title in 1997/98 at Highbury.

To help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the competition, asked Winterburn to name his dream Fantasy Team back four from the list of contenders.

See the list of nominees for Fantasy Team - and cast your vote.


"Looking at the list of 10, straight away I'm looking at my old Arsenal team-mate Lee Dixon and also Manchester United's Gary Neville as the main contenders.

"They stand out above all because of their absolute consistency. If I have to pick only one of them, I'm going to just go with Gary ahead of my old mate Lee just because of what he's achieved and that he had to keep pushing himself to stay at the top level for so long.

"Gary Neville and Lee Dixon stand out because of their absolute consistency"
- Nigel Winterburn

"Sometimes how good you are is revealed by how much the opposition supporters dislike you, and I mean that in a nice way.

"Gary is Mr Manchester United, and he was disliked by a lot of other fans because of his passion for United, but that didn't detract from how good he was defensively and what a top, wholehearted player he was.

"Gary and Lee were very similar players, excellent defensively but also equally good at support play moving forward.

"Of the others, Glen Johnson is very, very good on the ball, but to me he's a bit suspect defensively. Micah Richards is very young, he's so strong and adventurous going forward and I think he'll turn out to be an excellent full-back over time."


"There's a real variety on the list for left-back, a lot of very different players. For starters you've got Denis Irwin - he was so consistent and could almost play on either flank as he was right-footed, he did a great job for Man Utd.

"Ashley Cole is more adventurous and one of the best full-backs in recent times, and then you've got Stuart Pearce who was very robust and tenacious, and very rarely did anybody get the better of him.

"In the modern-day game I believe Ashley Cole has got everything"
- Nigel Winterburn

"They are the three I would look at straight away for this position, but in the modern-day game I believe Ashley Cole has got absolutely everything, so I'd go for him.

"You have to look at the careers they've all had, the three of them, what they've achieved and the clubs they've been at and that's what separates them from the others.

"Look at the number of times Irwin played for Manchester United - to do that you have to keep reinventing yourself, pushing yourself on to a different level, while what Pearce did for Forest was unbelievable.

"The others on the list are all good players; I really like Leighton Baines at Everton, and Gael Clichy had a terrific couple of seasons at Arsenal.

"In the modern day Premier League you've got to be very strong defensively, which Cole is, but also be good on the ball and good going forward too, so that's why I'm edging for him."


"My old captain at Arsenal, Tony Adams - I've got to have him in there haven't I?

"What a list that is: Steve Bruce, Nemanja Vidic, Jaap Stam... I mean these centre-halves are all absolutely top-class, wonderful players.

"I'd be happy to have any of those 10 central defenders in my team"
- Nigel Winterburn

"The 10 players on that list are all superb and I'm not being funny, but I'd be happy to have any of those in my team, whereas with some of the other positions I'm not so sure it's quite the same.

"But it's full of class, full of top players from one to 10. I mean take Paul McGrath - he was someone who didn't even train towards the end of his career and he was just unbelievably good.

"But I can only have two, so I'm going to have Tony Adams in there and then to mix it up I'm going with a modern day player in Nemanja Vidic to partner him.

"Adams was a fantastic leader, a wholehearted footballer who put his body on the line and read the game superbly. He didn't have tremendous pace, but not very often did anyone ever get the better of him.

"Vidic to my mind is pretty similar too. He's very commanding in the air and reads the game very well as well. They're very similar, but they've got that never-say-die attitude and that's very important because you want that in any team you play in."


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Key Points

  • Premier League is celebrating 20 Seasons
  • Awards for the greatest stars and best moments in Premier League history
  • An expert panel as well as fans will decide on the perfect Fantasy Team