Tony Adams, and the building of the famous back four

By Tony Attwood

On February 18th 1987 Tony Adams made his international debut for England in a 4-2 win over Spain.  He was the first player to be born after England’s one and only world up victory in 1966 who played for England.

We already have, as you would anticipate, an article on Tony Adams and there is a piece on his most recent work.  The Arsenal History Society was also instrumental in bringing the statues that now adorn the outside of the Emirates to the stadium – although to be fair we didn’t include Tony Adams as the person we wanted to have a statue for.  But as Ivan Gazidis has so kindly said on several occasions, it was us that came up with the idea.

So, articles are there many for Mr Arsenal.

And thus it was that I thought I would do something different for Mr Adams today – I’d try and link him in with George Graham’s famous back four.

But to begin we must ask, was it really a famous back four (Adams, Bould, Winterburn and Dixon?  Or a five (including Keown) or a six (including Seaman).

Obviously you can pick and choose any way you want to say it, but the question I asked myself recently was, how did they come together.  And I found that although I had a fair idea, I could not bring all the dates to mind, until I started looking a few things up.

Player Signed Signed by…
Adams Signed as a schoolboy 1980 (first game 5 November 1983) Neil
Keown Signed as a schoolboy 1980 left June 86 re-signed February 1993 Neil, Graham
Winterburn Summer 1987 Graham
Dixon January 1988 Graham
Bould Summer 1988 Graham
Seaman Summer 1990 Graham

So here they are…  the earliest date (1980) to the last (1993, the re-signing of Keown) was 13 years, but if we leave schoolboy signings out of this for a moment, the actual spread of time in terms was 1983 to 1990.  Seven years.  Or excluding the goal keeper, 1983 to 1988 – five years.

It is interesting to remember that two of these players were signed by Terry Neil, and that Graham let Keown go, and then brought him back again.

Here is another set of data that took me by surprise.  The number of games each man played:

Player Games
Adams 504
Keown 333
Winterburn 440
Dixon 458
Bould 267
Seaman 405

These are astonishing numbers, and no wonder that we revere these players and the back four, five or six that they created.

It is a simple bit of analysis, but I did it because I just haven’t seen it set out in this way before.

Hope you find it of value.


Recent Posts


The books…

The sites…

2 Replies to “Tony Adams, and the building of the famous back four”

  1. I always admired Tony Adams over the way he totally ignored the “Donkey” abuse and just got on with his game.
    In the end, particularly due to his performances for England, he rightly became a legend to all but the most moronic of fans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *