Date of birth
(1963-12-11) 11 December 1963 (age 57)
Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams
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Nigel Winterburn (born 11 December 1963) is an English former professional footballer and current pundit for BT Sport, who played as a left back from 1981 to 2003. He is best known for his role alongside the likes of Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Martin Keown and Lee Dixon, forming a celebrated defensive line for Arsenal in the Premier League and European football during the 1990s.
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- Birmingham City
- West Ham United
- International career
- Coaching career
- Media career
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Winterburn was born in Arley, Warwickshire. He began his career with Birmingham City but never played for the first team, though he did earn youth caps for England while with the club. He joined Oxford United, but never played for their first team either, and then in 1983 he was signed on a free transfer by Dave Bassett to join Wimbledon, who were on a steady climb up the divisions after gaining promotion from the non-league pyramid six years earlier.
Wimbledon achieved promotion to the First Division in 1986 and Winterburn earned England under-21 honours. In their first season within the elite they achieved a top-half finish and got to the quarter finals of the FA Cup, when they were beaten by eventual finalists Tottenham Hotspur.
Winterburn won the Wimbledon supporters Player Of The Year in each of the four seasons he spent at Plough Lane. George Graham was seeking a long-term replacement for captain Kenny Sansom and in the summer of 1987, Arsenal paid Wimbledon £350,000 and Winterburn went to Highbury.
Winterburn began his Arsenal career at right-back, an emergency measure employed by Graham after he'd been unsuccessful in finding a worthwhile replacement for Viv Anderson.
Though heavily left-footed, Winterburn settled into the right back role as best he could and became quickly involved in two controversial incidents of his first season. First, he was seen to openly goad Brian McClair after the Manchester United striker had missed a late penalty in an FA Cup tie at Highbury. The second incident came in the League Cup final later that same season. Despite having fallen behind in the early stages, Arsenal, the holders, dominated the match and were leading Luton Town 2–1 at Wembley with less than quarter of an hour to go when David Rocastle was felled in the penalty area. Michael Thomas had been Arsenal's designated penalty taker all season but after spot-kick failures from Thomas and two subsequent successors, it was Winterburn - who'd never taken a penalty for Arsenal before - who collected the ball up to take the kick.
He put the kick low and strong to the right hand corner as he viewed it, but Luton goalkeeper Andy Dibble guessed correctly and pushed the ball round the post. A newly inspired Luton then scored twice in the final ten minutes and won the final 3–2. Despite the missed penalty, it was Gus Caesar (deputising for David O'Leary who missed the final due to injury) rather than Winterburn who was made to bear the brunt of the criticism, as he had made the error which gifted Luton their equaliser at 2–2.
Sansom, demoted to reserve team football, left Arsenal for Newcastle United in December 1988 and Winterburn settled into his more familiar left back role as a result, staying in it for more than a decade. He and fellow full back Lee Dixon flanked two superb central defenders in captain Tony Adams and veteran David O'Leary, joined during the 1989 season by Steve Bould. Often the manager would play all five of them as Arsenal took holders Liverpool to a last-game showdown at Anfield for the First Division title, which would have been Arsenal's first title since the Double year of 1971. Arsenal's situation meant they needed to win by at least two clear goals to clinch the championship. Winterburn's free kick set up a first for Alan Smith shortly after half time, but the second looked as though it would elude them until Thomas scored in injury time. This victory was the culmination of the film Fever Pitch.
In the penultimate game, a 2-2 draw at home to Wimbledon, Winterburn scored perhaps the finest goal of his career, driving the ball diagonally into the far, top corner from fully 25 yards with his little-used right foot. Given both points and goal difference were identical (Arsenal winning the league on more goals scored) every single goal Arsenal scored that campaign eventually proved decisive in winning the league, but had Arsenal lost that day then the Anfield game would have been irrelevant as the title would have already been lost.
Winterburn made his England debut later the same year, coming on as a substitute in a 0–0 draw against Italy. Though many media outlets and Winterburn's own club manager regularly extolled his virtues as an England left back, the national coach, Bobby Robson, had him as no higher than third in the pecking order at left back. Stuart Pearce was going to the 1990 World Cup as first choice, with Tony Dorigo as back-up. Only injury to either would see a way open for Winterburn, and that didn't happen. He did earn appearances for the B team, however.
Arsenal ended 1990 trophyless, but went on to win the league title again the next year, with only one loss. During a 1-0 victory away at Manchester United, there was a mass brawl started by a Winterburn tackle on Denis Irwin. Winterburn was eventually booked, and subsequently fined two weeks wages (along with 3 teammates and the manager, George Graham), but despite the two-point deduction - one more than Manchester United as Arsenal had been involved in a similar brawl against Norwich City in 1989 - Arsenal went on to win the league comfortably. Two years later, Winterburn was in the Arsenal team which won both cup competitions and thus completed his domestic set of medals. Arsenal defeated Sheffield Wednesday 2–1 in both the League Cup and FA Cup finals, the latter in a replay.
Winterburn's form earned him a brief England recall by Graham Taylor who included him in a squad for a mini-tournament in the U.S. during which England lost 2–0 to the United States. Winterburn came on as a sub for Manchester United winger Lee Sharpe in the final match of the contest against Germany. This was the last time he played for England.
In 1994, Arsenal beat Italian side Parma's 1–0, to win the European Cup Winners Cup, Arsenal's first success continentally for a quarter of a century. They would not be so successful the following year as they reached the final again but were beaten 2-1 by Real Zaragoza.
Arsène Wenger arrived at Arsenal at the end of 1996 and instilled new self-awareness and dietary habits into the Arsenal squad, allowing the ageing defence (Adams was the youngest at 30 years of age; Martin Keown had also arrived to account for O'Leary's retirement after the 1993 FA Cup success) to thrive in the latter years of their careers and prolong their footballing careers. Arsenal won the "double" of Premiership and FA Cup in 1998. During the league campaign, in September 1997, as against Wimbledon in 1989, Winterburn again scored a vital goal from over 25 yards out driven diagonally into the far, top corner, this time with his favoured left foot. The 89th-minute winner, in a 3-2 Arsenal victory against Chelsea away at Stamford Bridge, moved Arsenal up to 2nd in the table. Winterburn was called up by caretaker manager Howard Wilkinson for the England squad in a friendly against France in 1999 but he was the odd one out from Wilkinson's first XI – Seaman, Adams, Keown and Dixon all started but Winterburn lost out to Graeme Le Saux for the left back slot and stayed on the bench for the 2–0 defeat.
In 1999-2000, Arsenal again failed to progress beyond the group stages of the Champions League, and therefore entered the UEFA Cup at the third round, where they were drawn against Nantes. During the first leg, which Arsenal won 3-0, Winterburn again scored with a drive into the far, top corner, though this time only from just outside the box. Arsenal went on to reach the UEFA Cup final but Winterburn had been forced out of the team by the Brazilian left back Sylvinho, although he in turn was displaced by the fledgling Ashley Cole within another 12 months.
West Ham United
Winterburn joined West Ham United in June 2000 for a fee of £250,000 after 429 League appearances and eight goals for Arsenal. He played 94 games in all competitions for West Ham, scoring one goal in a 1–0 away win against Leeds United on 11 November 2000. He retired in 2003, his last game coming on 2 February 2003 against Liverpool.
Winterburn's full debut for England came on 15 November 1989 against Italy. He made his second and final appearance for the senior national side nearly four years later on 19 June 1993 against Germany. The regular England left-back at this stage was Stuart Pearce.
On 14 July 2008, Winterburn joined Paul Ince's backroom staff at Blackburn Rovers as defensive coach. Following the dismissal of Ince in December 2008, Winterburn was deemed surplus to requirements at Ewood Park. New manager Sam Allardyce stated, "I spoke to Nigel Winterburn today to say that, from my point of view, in terms of specialist defensive coaching, I think I can look after that area myself now."