When you hear middle aged Gunners talk about their Idols/legends, the names you hear are Henry, Bergkamp, Tony Adams etc.
When you ask the older ones, they’ll mention names like John Radford, Peter Storey and Liam Brady. In some cases, you’ll hear the name Nigel Winterburn. For some reason, his name rarely pops up; weird.
Nutty as he’s fondly called by fans was originally signed by George Graham in the late 80s as a replacement for the ageing Kenny Sampson. Nigel, however wouldn’t break into the first team until a year later.
And when he eventually did, he comfortably ensconced himself in the starting 11 for the next decade.
Nutty will either be recalled for his 40 yard screamers nor his exquisite step-overs ( a la Bale); however, he was the embodiment of the perfect old school left back who understood what his primary obligation was – defend. That however didn’t stop him from bombing forward when needed. He’s also known for set piece deliveries, which was evident on that glorious night at Anfield in May 89′ – his sumptuous cross was met with an Alan Smith header for the first goal.
The George Graham era (1987-1995) has repeatedly been canonized as the foundation of the club’s modern day success. The team whose success was built around a solid ‘Back four’. Given the vaunted reputation of that team, it’s strange that one of its most consistent performers is so often obscured within observations of its ensemble.
Among all the members of the defensive quartet – Bould, Adams and Dixon – Winterburn though often regarded on the relative margins as a solid defender, a perfect mirror of the defense itself, is often not mentioned as high in regards with rest of the class. That perhaps, explains why he couldn’t get more than 2 caps for the Three lions as many argue he’s better than Tony Dorigo ( who kept him out most times).
Still, Nutty’s Arsenal career over its 13 years bore evidence not only of capable defender, but a player whose love for the club was only rivalled by his professionalism. He could be nasty too, almost Flamini-esque. His tackle on United’s Brain McClair, and consequent brawl at Old Trafford sowed the seeds of strife between both clubs in the years that followed
Nutty is most often recalled as a solid Pro. “He ran all day and left nothing on the pitch”, Arsenal blogger and author Dave Seager testifying to is exuding work-rate said. The left-back was every coach’s dream: he did exactly what he’s told to do. This probably explains why he remained Arsenal’s undisputed Left-back over the span of 13 years, the manager regardless.
When Wenger arrived and allowed the old back 4 to play more football and more forward thinking, Nigel adapted seamlessly.
Winterburn spent over 10years at Arsenal making over 584 appearances and has his testimonial in 1997. His Arsenal team drew with Rangers 3-3.
By the year 2000, at the age of 36, Nigel could no longer secure a starting 11 spot. However, the passion for the game was still very much apparent, but the legs were obviously not as strong as before. That wouldn’t deter him though as he left for West-ham and made over 90 apps for them before retiring.
Nigel Winterburn may not be on the lops of many like Henry, Tony Adams and Martin Koewn, but his exploits for Arsenal during his time with us can never be overlooked. As Dave aptly puts it “The word ‘legend’ is over used but there is no question that Nigel “Nutty” Winterburn was of the highest order”.