- Lee Dixon
Football player infobox
playername = Lee Dixon
fullname = Lee Michael Dixon
height = height|ft=5|in=10
dateofbirth = birth date and age|1964|3|17|df=y
position = Defender
years = 1982–1984
clubs = Burnley
caps(goals) = 004 0(0)
youthclubs = Burnley
nationalyears = 1989–1992
nationalteam = England B
nationalcaps(goals) = 004 0(0)
Lee Michael Dixon (born 17 March 1964 in
Manchester, England) is a former English professional footballer who formed part of the highly-respected Arsenal defence from the late 1980s, throughout the 1990s, until 2002. He currently works as a football punditfor the BBC.
He was capped 22 times for England, scoring once.
Dixon worked his way to the top of football slowly - he played for Burnley (where he served his
apprenticeship), Chester City (where he experienced finishing bottom of the whole Football Leaguein 1983-84), Bury and Stoke City before he was signed by Arsenal boss George Graham in January 1988.
Though Arsenal had seemingly found their replacement for England full back
Viv Anderson, who had been sold to Manchester United, it took a while for Dixon to be given a first team role at Highbury. With the veteran international Kenny Sansomat left back, the equally left-sided Nigel Winterburnhad been a guarded success in the unfamiliar right back role, though Dixon did make his debut against Luton Town in February 1988 and played six times in total before the season ended. In the summer, Sansom left Arsenal and Winterburn moved across, allowing Dixon to take over the No.2 shirt, which he duly did for well over ten years.
Dixon and Winterburn made the full back positions their own, while captain Tony Adams and the long-serving
David O'Learyoperated in the middle. In 1989 they were joined by Steve Bouldwho, like Dixon before him, had been spotted by Graham playing for Stoke City. These five defenders, often playing as a back five together (rather than the conventional back four) were the linchpin of an Arsenal side who became serious challengers for the First Division title in 1989, which would be their first since the "double" year of 1971, which featured Graham as a player.
Dixon was a marauding right back, ever willing to support his winger
David Rocastleand his attacking skills were still noted even though his main job (and the main priority of the side as a whole) was to defend. He also had a short spell during this period as the club's penalty taker. Arsenal took the chase for the League championship to the last day of the season when they faced Liverpool at Anfieldon a Friday night at the end of May.
The game had been re-arranged from earlier in the season but had taken on extra significance for Liverpool, who had gone through the emotional trauma of the
Hillsborough disasterand then won the FA Cup, so only Arsenal stood between them and a second "double". For their part Arsenal, who had led for much of the campaign only to be clawed back by Liverpool, needed to win the game by two clear goals or more, such was the tight difference between the two teams. Anything less and the championship was Liverpool's.
The game stood at 1-0 as the clock showed the 90 minutes were up. Dixon, for one, was not giving up the title as he received a ball in his own half and looked to mount a final attack. Spotting the clever run of centre forward
Alan M. Smithtowards the right channel, Dixon duly deliver a perfect long ball on to his chest. Smith's run had forced a Liverpool defender across with him and Arsenal midfielder Michael Thomasduly made a charge into the gap, took Smith's perfect sideways pass in his stride and casually flipped the ball past Bruce Grobbelaar. There was barely time for Liverpool to restart and Arsenal took the title, the first of many honours Dixon would win.
Arsenal struggled to hold on to the title the following year (and were unable to take part in the European Cup because the ban on English clubs after Heysel was still ongoing) but there was personal joy for Dixon as he made his England debut in April 1990 in a World Cup warm-up game against Czechoslovakia. He played well, but there was little hope of him being in the squad for the tournament as he was at least third in the pecking order behind
Gary Stevensand Paul Parker. Only injury to one of these two would have opened a door for Dixon to go to Italyand that didn't happen.
After the World Cup, new manager Graham Taylor instantly replaced Stevens and Parker with Dixon, who scored a goal at Wembley in only his sixth international in an important Euro 92 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland. The game ended 1-1. In the same season, Arsenal's notoriously mean defence (now with
David Seamanplaying behind them in goal) grew even meaner, with just one defeat all season as they won the League championship again.
By the end of 1991, Dixon had played in eleven internationals, including all of the Euro 92 qualifiers, through which England qualified for the finals in
Sweden. As the finals approached, Dixon suffered an injury, allowing Stevens a route back into the side as the deadline for squad announcement approached. Taylor duly named Dixon instead of Stevens in his provisional squad, but ultimately neither went to the tournament. Dixon pulled out through injury so Stevens was recalled, only for the Rangers full back also to withdraw through injury. England ended up with no recognised right back in their squad and didn't get past the group stages.
After the summer, a fit-again Dixon was back in the England team while also defending the League title within the familiar and feared Arsenal defence. With O'Leary's retirement imminent, Graham had provided extra cover in the centre of defence by signing
Martin Keownfrom Everton - ironically the player who'd ended up playing at right back in Euro 92 after both Dixon and Stevens became unavailable.
O'Leary ended up in Dixon's place at right back for the 1993 League Cup final against Sheffield Wednesday - Dixon was suspended, having being sent off in Arsenal's FA Cup semi-final victory over Spurs. Arsenal won 2-1. Dixon was back when the sides met again for the
FA Cupfinal which Arsenal won by the same scoreline in a replay, after the initial game had ended in a 1-1 draw. Unfortunately, 1993 did not go well internationally, with England failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.. Dixon's 21st cap, in a 7-1 win over San Marino in the final qualifier (a result which was immaterial) seemed to be his last as Taylor quit as manager and Terry Venablestook over, experimenting with other right backs until installing Gary Nevillein the spot in 1995, a role he maintains to this day.
In 1994, Dixon won a European medal to complement his domestic collection as Arsenal's legendary defence showed off their considerable ability to repel creativity among natural footballers. Again, defensive play is rarely a spectacle but the way Dixon, Winterburn, Bould and Adams expertly suppressed the efforts of
Tomas Brolin, Gianfranco Zolaand Faustino Asprillaof Italian side Parma was as exciting to purist football observers as any attacking play. Arsenal scored an early goal in the European Cup Winners Cup final in Copenhagenand let their defence do the rest, winning 1-0.
Dixon was again in his No.2 shirt as Arsenal slumped domestically in 1995 but reached the final of the Cup Winners Cup again. Though the defence in
Pariswas breached by Real Zaragoza, Arsenal equalised and took the game to extra time. The defence did its job and it took a ludicrous freak shot from 40 yards in the final minute from Nayim(adding insult to injury, an ex-Spurs player) to prise the trophy from the Gunners.
At the end of 1996,
Arsène Wengerarrived at Highbury and started to introduce lifestyle policies to the Arsenal squad, changing their life's outlook, self-awarenessand diet. This allowed Arsenal's ageing defence to prolong their time at the top, and Wenger later admitted that he expected to replace each defender he inherited fairly quickly, but just as quickly realised he didn't need to. Dixon and his defensive colleagues never ceased in paying tribute to Wenger for giving them extra years at the helm of the game.
Arsenal won the second "double" of the club's history in 1998 and Dixon received a testimonial the following year as he entered his tenth full season at Arsenal. He also got a surprise recall to the England squad by caretaker boss
Howard Wilkinson, who had temporarily taken over after the resignation of Glenn Hoddle. Dixon played in a 2-0 defeat by France at Wembley and then quietly disappeared away from the international scene again, never to return. He had won 22 caps but not played in a major tournament.
Dixon played in a
UEFA Cupcampaign in 2000 which saw Arsenal reach the final in the same Copenhagen stadium where they had won the Cup Winners Cup six years earlier. This time they were beaten on penalties by Galatasaray of Turkey. The following year Arsenal reached the FA Cup final but lost 2-1 to Liverpool at the Millennium Stadiumin Cardiff- a 37 year old Dixon being outpaced by 21 year old Michael Owenfor the winning goal. Dixon played on for one more season helping Arsenal to win another historic "double", the third in the club's history and second under manager Arsène Wenger, clinching the league title over rivals Manchester Unitedat their home ground Old Trafford.
Dixon retired after winning that double in 2002 at the age of 38, With Adams quitting at the same time, only Seaman and Keown then remained at the club from the halcyon days of the most respected club defence in English football. After O'Leary's retirement in 1993, Bould had been the next to go from the famous defence in 1999 and Winterburn followed him out of Highbury a year later. Dixon's played 458 appearances in the League with 25 goals, complete with a huge haul of medals.
In retirement he has concentrated on several business interests including the Riverside Brasserie in
Bray, Berkshire, originally with his friend Heston Blumenthal. [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/osm/story/0,,1448085,00.html] He tries to play golf daily, to reduce his golf handicap to Level at Woburn club. He is also making his name as a pundit for the BBC, appearing on " Match of the Day", "Score", and " Football Focus". He has a home in Marazion, Cornwall and can often be seen drinking in local pub The Fire Engine.
* [http://www.englandstats.com/playerreport.php?pid=315 England profile]
* [http://www.claretsmad.co.uk/news/loadfeat.asp?cid=ED35&id=342602 Burnley career stats]
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