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Carabao Cup Second Round - Birmingham City vs AFC Bournemouth

Soccer Football - Carabao Cup Second Round - Birmingham City vs AFC Bournemouth - Birmingham, Britain - August 22, 2017 Bournemouth's Benik Afobe Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough

Republic of Ireland focused on qualifying for World Cup finals – not winning plaudits for beautiful football

Denmark assume the Republic of Ireland will have to play a different sort of game against them in the second leg of their World Cup play-off, that they will have to open up, expand and attack. The Danes believe they will be easier to beat as a result. They are likely to be disappointed. Ireland do not feel the need to impress anyone with the quality of their football, they are not seeking admiring glances from the opposition, they are not even particularly interested in praise. They are focused on the job and the prize at the end of it. The result is all that matters, getting to the World Cup is all that concerns them. Everything else is largely irrelevant. This is Martin O’Neill’s Ireland, pragmatic, dogmatic, yet still capable of magical results when they need them, as Germany, Italy, Austria and Wales have discovered. They ground Denmark into submission on Copenhagen, rarely bothering to attack, so focused where they on protecting their own goal. It suffocated the game as a spectacle, but ensures they go into the second leg with a real chance of reaching their first World Cup for 16 years. There are plenty of accusations that can be thrown at them for their lack of ambition, yet Ireland still came close to snatching an away goal. This is what Ireland do, this is how they secured a play-off place and they will not change, not now. Not when so much is at stake. They will not be lured into playing the sort of game Denmark want them to play. “It was a difficult night because they’re a good team,” said Brighton centre-back Shane Duffy. “It was scruffy and ugly, maybe we could have put our foot on the ball a bit more, but we were solid. Ireland centre-back Shane Duffy has admitted that Saturday's game was 'difficult' Credit: Getty Images “I thought they were good, we defended well. Yeah, it was a difficult night, but we’re satisfied we didn’t lose the game, kept a clean sheet and we take it back to Dublin now. “It’s going to be another tough night on Tuesday, but nothing we haven’t come up against before. We’ll go in with the same game plan obviously, we’ll be hard to beat. We’ll be disciplined, we know we can score goals, we’re at home... we’ve still got to respect them, they’ve got players who can cut you open, we’ve got to concentrate and that’s what we’ll do. “You can’t get ahead of yourselves and go all guns blazing and lose the match early on, we’ve got to soak up their pressure. I’m quite confident they won’t score in Dublin and when the time is right, we’ll get a goal.” Sam Wallace's Power Rankings 42:04 That has not stopped the former Arsenal, Sunderland and Birmingham City striker, Nicklas Bendtner arguing the second leg will take Ireland’s main strength away from them. Then again, it is not the first time Bendtner, who is winding down his once promising career with Norwegian champions Rosenborg, has misread a situation. “Maybe we thought they would come a little bit more out of the blocks,” said Bendtner, who has lost his place in Denmark’s starting XI after disappointing spells at Juventus, Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest. “We thought they would attack more in numbers than just kick the ball away and hope to hit a player. Nicklas Bendtner expects a 'different match' in the second leg of the World Cup play-off Credit: Getty Images “But they defended with their lives, like we have seen. We had three good chances, maybe we could have done better on some of them. But they defended really well. They were strong and together. So, we have to match that again away from home, take our chance and hopefully score a goal. “I think it will be a different match. They know that they can’t play a match where they have to stay so deep. They know they have to come out and try to score. They can’t play a game of that importance for zero-zero. It’s not possible. I think it’s going to be a little bit more open, will also allow us to get more space. It will be a more interesting match.” O’Neill will not be swayed by that. After all, Denmark also need to score and they are just as desperate to get to Russia. Like a high-stakes poker game, it could well be down to who loses nerve first and leaves themselves vulnerable.

Republic of Ireland focused on qualifying for World Cup finals – not winning plaudits for beautiful football

Denmark assume the Republic of Ireland will have to play a different sort of game against them in the second leg of their World Cup play-off, that they will have to open up, expand and attack. The Danes believe they will be easier to beat as a result. They are likely to be disappointed. Ireland do not feel the need to impress anyone with the quality of their football, they are not seeking admiring glances from the opposition, they are not even particularly interested in praise. They are focused on the job and the prize at the end of it. The result is all that matters, getting to the World Cup is all that concerns them. Everything else is largely irrelevant. This is Martin O’Neill’s Ireland, pragmatic, dogmatic, yet still capable of magical results when they need them, as Germany, Italy, Austria and Wales have discovered. They ground Denmark into submission on Copenhagen, rarely bothering to attack, so focused where they on protecting their own goal. It suffocated the game as a spectacle, but ensures they go into the second leg with a real chance of reaching their first World Cup for 16 years. There are plenty of accusations that can be thrown at them for their lack of ambition, yet Ireland still came close to snatching an away goal. This is what Ireland do, this is how they secured a play-off place and they will not change, not now. Not when so much is at stake. They will not be lured into playing the sort of game Denmark want them to play. “It was a difficult night because they’re a good team,” said Brighton centre-back Shane Duffy. “It was scruffy and ugly, maybe we could have put our foot on the ball a bit more, but we were solid. Ireland centre-back Shane Duffy has admitted that Saturday's game was 'difficult' Credit: Getty Images “I thought they were good, we defended well. Yeah, it was a difficult night, but we’re satisfied we didn’t lose the game, kept a clean sheet and we take it back to Dublin now. “It’s going to be another tough night on Tuesday, but nothing we haven’t come up against before. We’ll go in with the same game plan obviously, we’ll be hard to beat. We’ll be disciplined, we know we can score goals, we’re at home... we’ve still got to respect them, they’ve got players who can cut you open, we’ve got to concentrate and that’s what we’ll do. “You can’t get ahead of yourselves and go all guns blazing and lose the match early on, we’ve got to soak up their pressure. I’m quite confident they won’t score in Dublin and when the time is right, we’ll get a goal.” Sam Wallace's Power Rankings 42:04 That has not stopped the former Arsenal, Sunderland and Birmingham City striker, Nicklas Bendtner arguing the second leg will take Ireland’s main strength away from them. Then again, it is not the first time Bendtner, who is winding down his once promising career with Norwegian champions Rosenborg, has misread a situation. “Maybe we thought they would come a little bit more out of the blocks,” said Bendtner, who has lost his place in Denmark’s starting XI after disappointing spells at Juventus, Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest. “We thought they would attack more in numbers than just kick the ball away and hope to hit a player. Nicklas Bendtner expects a 'different match' in the second leg of the World Cup play-off Credit: Getty Images “But they defended with their lives, like we have seen. We had three good chances, maybe we could have done better on some of them. But they defended really well. They were strong and together. So, we have to match that again away from home, take our chance and hopefully score a goal. “I think it will be a different match. They know that they can’t play a match where they have to stay so deep. They know they have to come out and try to score. They can’t play a game of that importance for zero-zero. It’s not possible. I think it’s going to be a little bit more open, will also allow us to get more space. It will be a more interesting match.” O’Neill will not be swayed by that. After all, Denmark also need to score and they are just as desperate to get to Russia. Like a high-stakes poker game, it could well be down to who loses nerve first and leaves themselves vulnerable.

Republic of Ireland focused on qualifying for World Cup finals – not winning plaudits for beautiful football

Denmark assume the Republic of Ireland will have to play a different sort of game against them in the second leg of their World Cup play-off, that they will have to open up, expand and attack. The Danes believe they will be easier to beat as a result. They are likely to be disappointed. Ireland do not feel the need to impress anyone with the quality of their football, they are not seeking admiring glances from the opposition, they are not even particularly interested in praise. They are focused on the job and the prize at the end of it. The result is all that matters, getting to the World Cup is all that concerns them. Everything else is largely irrelevant. This is Martin O’Neill’s Ireland, pragmatic, dogmatic, yet still capable of magical results when they need them, as Germany, Italy, Austria and Wales have discovered. They ground Denmark into submission on Copenhagen, rarely bothering to attack, so focused where they on protecting their own goal. It suffocated the game as a spectacle, but ensures they go into the second leg with a real chance of reaching their first World Cup for 16 years. There are plenty of accusations that can be thrown at them for their lack of ambition, yet Ireland still came close to snatching an away goal. This is what Ireland do, this is how they secured a play-off place and they will not change, not now. Not when so much is at stake. They will not be lured into playing the sort of game Denmark want them to play. “It was a difficult night because they’re a good team,” said Brighton centre-back Shane Duffy. “It was scruffy and ugly, maybe we could have put our foot on the ball a bit more, but we were solid. Ireland centre-back Shane Duffy has admitted that Saturday's game was 'difficult' Credit: Getty Images “I thought they were good, we defended well. Yeah, it was a difficult night, but we’re satisfied we didn’t lose the game, kept a clean sheet and we take it back to Dublin now. “It’s going to be another tough night on Tuesday, but nothing we haven’t come up against before. We’ll go in with the same game plan obviously, we’ll be hard to beat. We’ll be disciplined, we know we can score goals, we’re at home... we’ve still got to respect them, they’ve got players who can cut you open, we’ve got to concentrate and that’s what we’ll do. “You can’t get ahead of yourselves and go all guns blazing and lose the match early on, we’ve got to soak up their pressure. I’m quite confident they won’t score in Dublin and when the time is right, we’ll get a goal.” Sam Wallace's Power Rankings 42:04 That has not stopped the former Arsenal, Sunderland and Birmingham City striker, Nicklas Bendtner arguing the second leg will take Ireland’s main strength away from them. Then again, it is not the first time Bendtner, who is winding down his once promising career with Norwegian champions Rosenborg, has misread a situation. “Maybe we thought they would come a little bit more out of the blocks,” said Bendtner, who has lost his place in Denmark’s starting XI after disappointing spells at Juventus, Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest. “We thought they would attack more in numbers than just kick the ball away and hope to hit a player. Nicklas Bendtner expects a 'different match' in the second leg of the World Cup play-off Credit: Getty Images “But they defended with their lives, like we have seen. We had three good chances, maybe we could have done better on some of them. But they defended really well. They were strong and together. So, we have to match that again away from home, take our chance and hopefully score a goal. “I think it will be a different match. They know that they can’t play a match where they have to stay so deep. They know they have to come out and try to score. They can’t play a game of that importance for zero-zero. It’s not possible. I think it’s going to be a little bit more open, will also allow us to get more space. It will be a more interesting match.” O’Neill will not be swayed by that. After all, Denmark also need to score and they are just as desperate to get to Russia. Like a high-stakes poker game, it could well be down to who loses nerve first and leaves themselves vulnerable.

Liverpool hold off Birmingham as Niamh Charles' delightful lob earns win

Liverpool Ladies captain Gemma Bonner hugs goalscorer Niamh Charles as they beat Birmingham City in WSL1.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s Southampton career. Other hugely influential players from his era were Jason Dodd and Francis Benali before the recent rise that was inspired by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte. Yet underpinning everything was the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr that rescued the club. His executive chairman Nicola Costese played a huge but sometimes divisive role in pushing the team forward and changing the culture and, with Katharina Liebherr taking on a more visible role, the club have remained successful since his departure in 2014. Jeremy Wilson Stoke City Peter Coates Credit: PAUL COOPER After returning to buy the club in 2006, Peter Coates has presided over a glorious period in Stoke history. As chairman he masterminded the return of Tony Pulis, with promotion to the Premier League swiftly following, and has transformed the club from its squad to the training ground with his financial backing. His son John has also played a huge part in Stoke's progress but Coates Senior is probably the best chairman in the Premier League right now. His love for all things Stoke City can never be doubted. John Percy Swansea City Leon Britton Credit: GETTY IMAGES Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and later Brendan Rodgers may have cultivated the idea of possession football in south Wales, but it was Leon Britton who brought the vision to life.  The London-born playmaker has been Swansea's beating beating heart in their journey through the ranks of the football league: from the bottom of the fourth tier to established Premier League outfit. His expert ball retention saw him become one of Europe's most unlikely pass-masters in the early part of this decade, with statistics regularly rivalling those of Xavi and other more glamorous names. His legacy will live on at the Liberty Stadium long after he eventually decides to retire. Callum Davis Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino Credit: REX The influence of chairman Daniel Levy should not be understated, yet what Pochettino has done to change Spurs in just a few years is utterly remarkable. He has given the team a new identity, and has transformed consistently average players into very good ones while making his best players world-beaters. As a result, Spurs are now one of the most exciting teams on the planet. Most importantly, he has made Tottenham fans feel something they haven't for a very long time: optimism. For that they will be forever grateful. Alistair Tweedale Watford Gino Pozzo Credit: PA A common misconception outside of Watford is that the club somehow 'lost its identity' following the Pozzo family's takeover in 2012. But the Hornets were teetering on the brink of ruin under the contentious ownership of Laurence Bassini before the Italian job brought stability and success. The team are already an established Premier League presence with an exciting turnover of talented players. But Gino Pozzo's reign as owner is as much defined by the progress off the pitch; a vastly improved Vicarage Road and a commitment to community and heritage that has always been a part of Watford's fabric. Tom Hoggins West Bromwich Albion Kevin Phillips Credit: GETTY IMAGES For obvious reasons it can’t be Lee Hughes and the exemplary ‘Super Bob’ Taylor falls just outside this arbitrary time frame so it has to be Kevin Phillips who scored 46 goals over two seasons, firing the Baggies to the play-off final in 2007 and then promotion in 2008. The monotonous caution and conservatism of the Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis regimes ignore one crucial thing. Safety and certainty, shunning risk and reward, anaesthetises the soul. But goals make the people happy and for two years Phillips made the Baggies boing once more. Rob Bagchi West Ham United Paolo Di Canio Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine you are playing one of those quick-fire answer games, where you have to respond to a question immediately, without giving it second thought, and you are asked: “What is the defining image of West Ham’s modern existence?” Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon. Next. The flying scissor kick was the strike of a lifetime, and is surely the Premier League’s finest goal. And yet Di Canio was so much more than that. As well as the goals, it was the passion and the ego, the ups and the downs, the tattoos and the tears.  It was everything West Ham have lacked since they moved to the soulless London Stadium. How they must crave a player a player of his creativity and devotion now. Sam Dean CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa Stiliyan Petrov Credit: GETTY IMAGES Signed in 2006, Stiliyan Petrov quickly made himself a vital member of the Martin O’Neill squad that had Aston Villa challenging for Champions League qualification. He was voted the club’s Player of the Year in 2009, but three years later he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. In tribute to Petrov, Villa fans clapped in the 19th minute of every home and away game to support the midfielder, who wore the number 19 shirt, in his battle against illness. In August 2012, it was announced Petrov’s leukaemia was in remission but he announced his retirement from the game just under a year later. Petrov has been described as an inspiration for the way he handled his illness and will forever be cherished by Villa supporters. Matt Law Barnsley Adam Hammill Credit: GETTY IMAGES There are slim pickings at a club that has had 17 permanent managers since 1997 and yo-yoed between English football's second and third tier. But few players can boast of scoring in a Wembley final, let alone two in the same season. That is why winger Adam Hammill is Barnsley's modern hero. The former Southampton player has had two spells at Oakwell, making 155 appearances, and things peaked in the 2015-16 season when Barnsley won the FA Trophy and League One play-off final at the national stadium with Hammill scoring in both.  Dan Zeqiri Birmingham City Barry Ferguson Credit: GETTY IMAGES Birmingham have never had a problem taking on troubled players looking to prove themselves, Barry Ferguson was no different. After leaving Rangers under a cloud of controversy following a drinking - and subsequent swearing - session on Scotland duty, City gave him the chance to prove himself at the highest level. His classy displays in anchoring the midfield helped achieve a ninth-placed Premier League finish and also secure a second major trophy. Ferguson played more than 70 minutes of that League Cup final with a broken rib, something that endeared him to Birmingham fans and left them yearning for somebody of his quality ever since. Chris Quinn Bolton Wanderers Jay-Jay Okocha Credit: PA Never before or since have Bolton had a superstar quite like Jay-Jay Okocha, whose four-year stay at the Reebok Stadium between 2002 and 2006 was even more magical than the club's supporters had dreamed of.  Okocha‘s beguiling flicks and tricks were so effortless, so natural, that at times he looked like a kid having a bit of fun in the school playground. Okocha was no show-pony however - he also provided a number of crucial goals and assists, and captained the side in a halcyon period when they reached the League Cup final and finished eighth in the Premier League.  As Bolton fans used to say, Okocha was "so good they named him twice." Charlie Eccleshare Brentford Matthew Benham Credit: EMPICS Brentford's modern hero? Beyond any question, owner Matthew Benham. The Brentford fan, and professional gambler, has saved the club from the scrapheap, pumped in £45million and is bankrolling a new stadium. (Warning: strong language) The team are playing their most exciting football in living memory, they are in with a real chance of going up, and these feel like the good times at Griffin Park. Even axing popular manager Mark Warburton could not cool the fans’ ardour: Bees are walking in a Benham wonderland. Alan Tyers Bristol City Gary Johnson Credit: PA After taking over as manager in 2005, Gary Johnson soon became a cult hero for City fans, who had endured a series of playoff heartbreaks in the early 2000s and were seemingly marooned in Division Two. After eight years of trying to reach the second tier of English football, City finally reached the Championship in 2007, two years into Johnson’s reign. Less than a year later, a second successive promotion was a genuine possibility as Johnson guided the side to the top of the Championship. They eventually finished fourth, their highest finish since 1980, but were thwarted in the play-off final by Hull City and 39-year-old Dean Windass. The club spiralled into decline following Johnson’s departure in 2010, and they were relegated back into League One in 2013. Now, though, they are back in the Championship and have started the season brightly under Lee Johnson, who just happens to be Gary’s son. Sam Dean Burton Albion Nigel Clough Credit: DAVE EVITTS In an 11-year spell as player-manager then manager between 1998 and 2009, Clough led Burton from the league below the Conference to the brink of promotion to the Football League. Has since returned to take them up into the Championship - their loftiest ever position - in his first season back. A club legend who has done more than anyone else to make Burton Albion a force in English football, for the first time in their history. Alistair Tweedale Cardiff City Neil Warnock Credit: PA With a nod to Andy Campbell, which scored the winning goal in the 2003 play-off final which ended the two-decade spell in the lower two divisions, it is difficult to know where Cardiff City would be had Neil Warnock not arrived last season to haul them from the bottom three. Would Vincent Tan had hung around and seemed so positive in League One? Would the club’s future appear more uncertain than ever? The answer to latter is a resounding yes, after two decades of controversial foreign ownership under first Sam Hammam and now the colour-swapping Malaysian. Instead, the club, riding high in the top three, has not felt so united for years. James Corrigan Derby County Peter Gadsby  Credit: ALAMY Derby's home Pride Park opened in 1997, and it still looks every inch a Premier League stadium. Derby's then lead director and property developer Peter Gadsby was the brains behind the operation, drawing up plans within 10 weeks and delivering the new ground for approximately £18 million.  As well as a state-of-the-art training ground at Moor Farm, Gadsby returned in 2006 to take control of the club after it had been misused by Jeremy Keith who was later convicted of fraud and false accounting. Despite many near-misses, Derby have failed to return to the top flight since their dismal 2007-8 campaign, but if they do they'll have Gadsby to thank for bequeathing them fantastic infrastructure.  Dan Zeqiri Fulham Roy Hodgson Credit: AP On Thursday 18 March, 2010, a Juventus team featuring Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet, and with Alessandro Del Piero coming off the bench, came to Craven Cottage and were beaten 4-1 in the second leg of Europa League round of 16 tie, 5-4 on aggregate, having at one point led the tie 4-1. Because it is Fulham, most of the supporters are just too polite to make much of a fuss but the man in charge for their extraordinary drive to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson, deserves for it to be mentioned much more often. Hodgson gave Fulham fans the season they will never forget. They had been to an FA Cup final in 1975 and won the Championship in 2001 but otherwise this is a club that Juventus fans would otherwise only know if they spotted the stadium from a Thames river cruise. Mohamed Al-Fayed put the money in, but it was ultimately Hodgson who sprinkled the magic. Which is not to say the football was much to watch. The results, however, were incredible.   Sam Wallace Hull City Dean Windass Credit: PA The club legend had three stints at Hull, his hometown club, after being released as a YTS trainee. The striker was given a second chance, scoring 57 league goals in 176 matches, before being sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in 1995. And then a third chance as Windass returned, after a journeyman career, in January 2007. The rest, for Hull, is history with Windass scoring the only goal that took them into the Premier League, into the top-flight for the first time in their history, to beat Bristol City in the Championship play-offs in 2008. Windass hung up his boots aged 40, but not before he became Hull’s oldest ever goal-scorer, scoring in the Premier League at the grand old age of 39. Jason Burt Ipswich Town Matt Holland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nicknamed Captain Marvel by George Burnley, the ever dependable Matt Holland only missed one league match in six years at Portman Road. Even then it wasn't injury which ended his 223 consecutive league appearances, but an international call-up. Always the last player to leave the pitch whatever the result home or away, family man Holland was the perfect fit for the Ipswich family.  A loyal servant, Holland rejected a move to Aston Villa when Ipswich were relegated having led them to a fifth-place finish the season before and narrowly missing out on a Champions League berth.  Vicki Hodges Leeds United Leeds Fans Remembrance Tributes to fans killed in Instanbul at the Billy Bremner statue  outside Elland Road Credit: ACTION IMAGES Twenty years of profligacy, penury and being exploited as a publicity vehicle by various blowhards - an era which may now, hopefully, have come to an end - Leeds supporters have no heroes but themselves and particularly Leeds Fans Remembrance, set up to honour the memories of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight who were murdered in Istanbul in April 2000 on the eve of Leeds’ Uefa Cup semi-final tie. The pain endures because more than 17 years on justice has not been served on the killers. Nonetheless this inspirational campaign has raised thousands for Candlelighters, the Leeds’ cancer charity, and helped to build a play pavilion for the children’s cancer ward at Leeds General Infirmary. Rob Bagchi Middlesbrough Juninho Juninho gives Newcastle's Philippe Albert a telling off Credit: GETTY IMAGES The thought of a Brazil international signing for a club like Middlesbrough would have been fanciful before the creation of the Premier League, but Juninho did, arriving from Sao Paulo in 1995. He actually left in 1997, following the club’s relegation to from the top flight, but made an emotional return two years later on loan before signing another permanent deal to play for the Teesside club in 2002.  He fell in love with the club and the club fell in love with him. Widely regarded as Boro’s best player of the modern era he brought skill, flair but also sweat to the cause. He was so revered, the club even renamed the Cheeseburgers sold inside the stadium “The Juninho.” Luke Edwards Millwall Neil Harris Harris (right) with Tim Cahill en route to the FA Cup final in 2004 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Former striker and current manager has done enough in three spells in Bermondsey to fill several Roy of the Rovers annuals.  Arrived at the club in 1998 and was the top scorer in any English league during the 2000/01 season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Recovered to lead his team to Wembley for a scarecly believable FA Cup final appearance in 2004. In his second spell at The Den, Harris became Millwall's all-time leading goalscorer and has since steered his club back to the second tier as their manager. What more could you possibly ask for? Thom Gibbs Norwich City Delia Smith Credit: PA It’s not all been plain sailing under Delia Smith’s stewardship but without her Norwich could be in a far stickier position than they currently find themselves. Without the financial support of Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, administration would have been a real possibility. Instead there have been three separate stints in the Premier League, with four promotions and as many relegations since 2003. Smith is a fan first and foremost, and although her future position is unclear she has acted as a custodian of the club, doing so very much for the right reasons. Julian Bennetts Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen Credit: ACTION IMAGES There has been 20 years of underachievement, false dawns, questionable ownership and 17 managers, since Forest's relegation from the top flight in 1999. Hope for the future is there, after the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis and the tangible progress under Mark Warburton, but the one constant during recent turmoil has been Chris Cohen. The midfielder has suffered three serious knee injuries but returned through resilience and determination, a player to be highly admired for his loyalty. John Percy Preston North End Sean Gregan Credit: ALAMY If you can look back at your career in the knowledge that you were given the nickname of ‘God’, you can be sure that you have done something right. That’s certainly the case for Preston legend Sean Gregan, who was twice named the club’s official player of the year and was the heartbeat of the impressive side which came so close to reaching the Premier League under David Moyes. Having joined the club from Darlington in 1996, Gregan went on to captain the side to the old Second Division title in 2000, before helping Preston to the First Division play-off final the following season, when they lost to Bolton Wanderers. Sam Dean Queens Park Rangers Ian Holloway Credit: ACTION IMAGES QPR's best players in the past 20 years only sparkled briefly. Paul Furlong, Lee Cook, Adel Taarabt, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all shone, but not for long. About six seconds at Wembley in 2014 in Zamora's case. None eclipse Ian Holloway's body of work at Loftus Road. He arrived at the club in 2001 with relegation to the third tier beckoning. It couldn't be avoided, and the following summer Holloway was left with just six senior professionals before QPR's Division 2 campaign. With astute signings and sheer force of his "unconventional" personality, Holloway galvanised his side and eventually the entire club. Promotion back to the second tier in 2004 was his crowning glory. Now back in W12, again in challenging circumstances and looks unlikely to repeat the trick. But no QPR fan will ever regard Hollway as less than heroic. Thom Gibbs Reading Graeme Murty Credit: PA Reading's all-conquering 2005/2006 campaign in the Championship was backed up by finishing seventh in the Premier League the following season, and it's impossible to look past captain Graeme Murty's role in the club's rise over that period. Murty in total made over 300 appearances for the Royals in a stellar 11-year career between 1998 and 2009. His match-winning penalty against QPR - just his second goal for the club - clinched the record for the most points in a Championship season with 106. Ben Coles Sheffield United Neil Warnock Credit: PA The obdurate Yorkshireman oversaw United's most successful period in recent history by leading the club to the semi-finals of the FA and League Cups in 2003 and promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He was largely responsible too for the building of United's academy from scratch, one which produced Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka among others. A passionate and effervescent character, the Blades' controversial relegation a season later, however, left the outspoken Warnock drained and led to his remorseful resignation.  Vicki Hodges Sheffield Wednesday Dejphon Chansiri Credit: GETTY IMAGES Not exactly a vintage 20 years for Owls fans. Aside from nice guy Drew Talbot scoring in the playoff final v Hartlepool, moments of on-pitch joy have been extremely limited. The most significant individual has probably been Dejphon Chansiri, who has pumped a ton of money into the club. As a Thai tuna magnate, he’s not exactly the most reliable figure for fans, but if he continues to invest, who knows? Perhaps the club will one day dine again at English football’s captain's table. Alan Tyers Sunderland Niall Quinn Credit: ACTION IMAGES It would be tempting to select his strike partner Kevin Phillips, given he won the Golden Boot for the European football top goalscorer as Sunderland finished seventh in the Premier League, but it was Quinn who galvanised the supporters and allowed them to dream of becoming a major force again. He wrote in his autobiography: “I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland."  Sunderland supporters still sing about his “disco pants” two decades later and his hard work and love for the club has become the benchmark for all Sunderland players since. Quinn also became club chairman in 2007 under the Drumaville Consortium before stepped down in 2012 after a falling out with new owner, Ellis Short. Luke Edwards Wolverhampton Wanderers Sir Jack Hayward Hayward celebrates a playoff final victory in 2003 with then-Wolves manager Dave Jones Credit: GETTY IMAGES There is only one choice for this award at Molineux and that man is ‘Mr Wolves’, Sir Jack Hayward. His popularity was such that thousands lined the streets for his funeral when he died aged 91 in January 2015, just recognition for having sunk £70m of his own money into the club between 1990 and 2007. On his watch Molineux was transformed and the South Bank stand is now named after him, while there are plans for a statue of Hayward outside the ground.  Julian Bennetts   Have we missed your personal favourite modern hero? Give us your nominations and why they deserve the status in the comments section below.

Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years?

Some clubs' heroes from the past 20 years are obvious. They are the standout player who served with distinction for a decade, the trophy-winning manager, or the chairman who steadied the ship. For others it's a more difficult decision. Some are blessed with many candidates. Others, very few. Nevertheless we asked our writers a simple question: Which single person has had the greatest positive influence on their club since 1997? Here are their responses, for every club currently playing in the top two flights.  PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal Dennis Bergkamp Credit: ACTION IMAGES Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira could all lay claim to this accolade, but Dennis Bergkamp just shades it.  Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal in 1995 heralded a new direction for the club, and he retired 11 years later with three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups to his name.  More than just winning titles though, Bergkamp was a joy in everything he did at Highbury. The vision, the exquisite technique, the spectacular goals - Bergkamp got the Arsenal fans not just off their seats but frequently shaking their heads in disbelief.  His team-mates were - and remain - similarly in awe, and if you want reminding of Bergkamp's genius, watch his superlative hat-trick against Leicester in 1997.  Charlie Eccleshare AFC Bournemouth Eddie Howe Credit: GETTY IMAGES Eddie Howe's association with Bournemouth remains the stuff of fairytale. Became manager in 2009 at the age of 31 when he somehow reversed a 17-point deficit to keep the club both in existence and in the Football League. Despite a transfer embargo, he then won the first of his promotions before leaving for a spell at Burnley. Upon his return in 2012, Bournemouth have been promoted twice, reached the top flight for the first time in their history, and finished ninth in the Premier League last season. His influence is felt at every level of the club. Jeremy Wilson Brighton and Hove Albion Dick Knight Credit: ALAMY Without current chairman Tony Bloom's money, Brighton's Amex Stadium and top-class training ground wouldn't have progressed beyond dreams, but Dick Knight deserves recognition as the club's spiritual saviour in the near-death years of the late 1990s. With extraordinary persistence, Knight fought battles with planners, politicians and pessimists to keep the supporters believing in salvation. An ad-man by trade, he sold the rebirth idea with a smile. Paul Hayward Burnley Sean Dyche Credit: ACTION IMAGES It simply has to be Sean Mark Dyche, the throat-sore "Ginger Mourinho" who got Burnley promoted to the Premier League not once but twice and is showing every sign of keeping them in the division the second time around. It takes a lot to get a team through the 46-game epic that is the Championship season but then to go back and do it a second time, harnessing all that is best about this famous Lancashire club, took guts and intelligence. A special mention also to the former chairman Barry Kilby, now the vice-chair. His investment of £3 million in January 1999, when he became the largest single shareholder, saved Burnley and helped lay the foundations for the club it is now. Sam Wallace Chelsea Roman Abramovich Credit: AP Chelsea were on the brink of financial crisis before Roman Abramovich transformed the club into a European superpower in 2003. The Blues were likely to default on a £75million loan, but, ironically, it was their perilous financial position that attracted Abramovich, who had also weighed up bids for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Chelsea were relatively easy to take over and within two years of buying the club, Abramovich had spent over £100million on new players. His spending has meant that in 14 years, Chelsea have won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Matt Law Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steve Parish and his consortium saved Crystal Palace from extinction, but Wilfried Zaha has breathed new life into the club since his debut in 2010.  South London born and bred, 'Wilf' is the talisman and poster boy for a club that prides itself on developing young talent from the local community. Player of the year for the last two seasons, no-one has beguiled, hypnotised and enthralled Palace fans more than the man about which they sing 'he's just too good for you'.  Callum Davis Everton David Moyes Credit: PA David Moyes has been the victim of historic revisionism in recent years. When he took over at Everton in 2002 the club had been consistently stuck in the bottom half of the table. Over 10 years he re-established a top six position and even broke into the top four. A guard of honour bid him farewell when he left for Manchester United. He was accused of not being ambitious enough – harsh given financial restraints he worked with. The circumstances around his departure (private meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson) have soured memories of his reign, but future generations will recognise his positive contribution.   Chris Bascombe Huddersfield Town Dean Hoyle Dean Hoyle meets his adoring public after Huddersfield won promotion to the Premier League Credit: REUTERS Every morning at 8am at 24 schools more than 1,000 children eat a healthy breakfast paid for by Huddersfield Town. The scheme is the brainchild of club chairman and owner Dean Hoyle, a lifelong fan who joined the board in 2008 and is full of forward thinking initiatives while he has transformed Huddersfield and taken them into the Premier League for the first time in their history. He offered £100 season tickets to long-standing fans if the club ever reached the top-flight and has been good to his word and the sight of him collapsing with joy after their Championship play-off win at Wembley, on penalties, was one of the images of last season. Jason Burt Leicester City Claudio Ranieri Credit: PA It can be only one man, after the most remarkable story of the past 35 years, since Nottingham Forest's European Cup triumphs. Ranieri guided a team built by Nigel Pearson to the Premier League title, utilising intuition and shrewd management, with a permanent glint in his eye. It all went awry the following season, and many will argue over whether Ranieri simply inherited an outstanding set-up, but his name will forever be etched into Leicester - and football - history. John Percy Liverpool Steven Gerrard Credit: PA If Steven Gerrard had not been born a Liverpool fan, the recent history of the club would look very different. He scored in the victorious Uefa Cup final, League Cup final, FA Cup final and, of course, the Champions League final. Managers Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez got the best from him, but as every club in Europe tried in vain to lure him from Anfield, Gerrard’s loyalty kept Liverpool competitive during an often tumultuous period off the pitch. Chris Bascombe Manchester City Sheikh Mansour Credit: AFP Okay, so the Arab billionaire did not buy City until 2008 but has anyone done more to entirely reshape the fortunes of the club over the past 20 years? The answer, of course, is no, and with Pep Guardiola having presided over the most electrifying start to a season yet, City could be on the brink of a new era of success after Premier League title triumphs in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The days of Jamie Pollock and former manager Stuart Pearce parading his daughter's treasured "Beanie horse" in the technical area are long gone. It is not just the team and club Sheikh Mansour's petro dollars have transformed either. East Manchester has been revitalised by his benevolence. James Ducker Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson Credit: AP An obvious choice, yes, but the only choice. Some wondered if the man who masterminded United's unprecedented treble success of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998/99 had outstayed his welcome when United went three seasons without the championship between 2004 and 2006. But Ferguson reacted to the rise of Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions, and then later Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, at a time when United's own purse strings were being tightened by the Glazers' controversial ownership, by presiding over the most successful period in United's history. Sir Alex Ferguson reveals the secrets of his success 03:31 As well as winning five Premier League titles between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, he also claimed a second Champions League crown with one of the most exciting sides in the club's era. James Ducker Newcastle United Alan Shearer Credit: ACTION IMAGES Turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United to return home to his beloved Newcastle in a then world record £15m move from Blackburn Rovers in 1996 when he was at the peak of his powers and could have signed for any club in the world. Carried the team on his shoulders for more than a decade, breaking Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record in the process, eventually retiring with 206 goals in 404 games for the Magpies. The former England captain may not have won any trophies on Tyneside, but he earned something more important to him, the love and admiration of his own people. He is genuine when he says he has no regrets. Luke Edwards Southampton Markus Liebherr Credit: GETTY IMAGES The time-frame takes in a more peripheral phase of Matthew Le Tissier’s