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McKennie Scores on Debut, Horvath Howler Costs USA in Draw vs. Portugal

The U.S. men's national team began to turned the page on failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986 with a 1-1 draw in a friendly at Portugal on Tuesday.

Under interim manager Dave Sarachan, a young, experimental U.S. took the field against the Cristiano Ronaldo-less European champions, who are tuning up for the World Cup next summer. The Americans, meanwhile, are just looking to start fresh, with a trio of young goalkeepers in camp out to claim the No. 1 role for the next World Cup cycle and a host of other new or seldom called-upon names in camp looking to make an impression.

The USA looked to get out to a quick start and had a couple of early opportunities, with C.J. Sapong turning and hitting a weak attempt right at Beto in goal, while Kellyn Acosta followed that by firing well high over the bar.

Portugal, which also is featuring a largely young and experimental team, threatened as Bruno Fernandes weaved through the U.S. midfield on a sequence that concluded with Eric Lichaj clearing a ball out by the far post. Portugal, which is hoping to avoid any injuries in its run up to Russia, was dealt a dose of bad news nine minutes in, when veteran center back Pepe was forced off with an apparent foot or ankle injury.

Bruma had what appeared to be Portugal's best early chance in the 17th minute, when he was found unmarked by the left post, but he mis-hit his first-time volley, sending it across the box instead of steering it on goal.

The USA took the lead in the 21st minute through Weston McKennie. Sapong, who moments earlier was denied an assist to Tyler Adams after a save by Beto, fed McKennie with a ball from the left. The 19-year-old Schalke midfielder took his time in the box, created space and hit the target with confidence to give the Americans a 1-0 lead.

The lead lasted for 10 minutes, when Vitorino Antunes hit a pretty basic cross in Ethan Horvath's direction, only for the goalkeeper to commit the howler and have it slip through him and into the next for an ugly equalizer.

John Brooks thought he had given the USA the lead in the 44th minute off a corner kick, but Matt Miazga was called for a push on the sequence prior to the header, keeping the score at 1-1.

Adams was denied again by Beto in the 52nd minute with a header from the doorstep, unable to convert off Danny Williams's cross from the left.

McKennie was then denied his second by the bar moments later, with his header clanging off the woodwork.

The teams held from there, with Bill Hamid playing the second half in goal for the USA in a period largely devoid of clear-cut chances.

The Americans turn their focus to January, where a camp will be held prior to a Jan. 28 friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Here is how the teams lined up:

Here are the rosters for both teams:

USA

GOALKEEPERS: Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

DEFENDERS: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Sheffield United), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Vitesse), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

MIDFIELDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town)

FORWARDS: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri)

Portugal

GOALKEEPERS: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Goztepe), José Sá (FC Porto)

DEFENDERS: Vitorino Antunes (Getafe), Edgar Ié (Lille), Kevin Rodrigues (Real Sociedad), João Cancelo (Inter), Luís Neto (Fenerbahçe), Nélson Semedo (Barcelona), Pepe (Besiktas), Ricardo Ferreira (Braga), Ricardo Pereira (FC Porto)

MIDFIELDERS: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting), Danilo Pereira (FC Porto), João Mário (Inter), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton)

FORWARDS: André Silva (Milan), Bruma (RB Leipzig), Gelson Martins (Sporting), Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia), Rony Lopes (Monaco)

USA vs Portugal: Possible USMNT Lineups and Tactics as Americans Turn A New Page

Asked by a local reporter to discuss Tuesday’s friendly between host Portugal and the USA, American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya was fewer than 30 seconds into his answer when he referenced the game’s charitable purpose.

Wildfires across some 240,000 acres killed more than 100 people in Portugal in June and October, and last month the country’s football federation announced that the proceeds from the match at the Estádio Dr. Magalhães Pessoa in Leiria (near the site of some of the deadliest fires in June) will be funneled toward the victims.

“Hopefully we can help to raise awareness and some money for those families and everything. It’s for a good cause,” Bedoya said in Lisbon.

It’s obviously a cause worthy of the game and, as the U.S. national team stands on the threshold of two years of oblivion, charity remains the best reason to play it. There is no World Cup for which to prepare. There is no tactical foundation to establish. And with U.S. Soccer’s presidential election coming in February and, presumably, a new national team coaching staff and organizational set-up to follow, a clean slate probably is just around the corner. The performances Tuesday will matter only to the extent the next coach decides they should. That extent likely will be small.

Nobody’s international future will be determined, for better or worse. In that context, U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan did the right thing. He cobbled together a one-time-only team featuring out-of-season MLS players who will benefit from an extra few days of decent training, a handful of veterans who will help the visitors avoid embarrassment Tuesday and some of the youth upon whom the USA will rely during the rebuild. This group of players won’t come together again. What’s important, beyond charity, is to do right by Portugal and the spirit of the sport while giving the younger Americans an enticing taste of what it means to represent their country at the highest level.

“We’re professionals. We have a job to do,” Sarachan told reporters. “What makes this week so special for me, personally, is the fact that we’ve assembled a group of players that I feel have a bright future—young players that have shown up with no bitterness in their mouth, no chip on their shoulder, with a lot of enthusiasm.”

Young men like Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Cameron Carter-Vickers won’t need motivation. They’ll be thrilled for the chance to get a taste of national team life and earn their first senior cap against the European champions. More seasoned U.S. internationals like DeAndre Yedlin and Kellyn Acosta—those who are likely to play a role during the 2022 cycle—can begin to establish themselves as leaders. While veterans like Bedoya can think about leaving a legacy.

“It’s a bit of a different role for me now to kind of step up and be a leader,” Yedlin told reporters in Portugal. “When I was young and with this team, I kind of dwelled on the mistakes I made because I thought, ‘Oh, I make a little mistake and I’m going to be out of the team,’ and things like that. It’s normal. I know they’re prob going to be nervous—going to have butterflies—but they just have to realize that they’re here for a reason. They’ve been called upon for a reason. They belong here.”

Bedoya is the oldest, most experienced international in camp. The 30-year-old has 65 caps and appeared in both the 2014 World Cup and in seven of the 16 qualifiers for 2018. Even if he’s not in frame for 2022, there’s still something Bedoya believes he can accomplish.

“This is an opportunity for a lot of people, even the older guys like myself, to show we can continue in the program and give something back, for the young guys and the new players to come in, get a feel of what it’s like to play for the national team, to represent your country and see what the set-up is all about,” Bedoya said.

“I thought there’d probably be wholesale changes throughout the whole team [after losing to Trinidad & Tobago],” Bedoya added. “But at the same time, you go through a transitional phase and you expect some guys, like myself, who’ve been around for a while to be here and get that experience going.”

Sarachan’s lineup in Leiria likely will symbolize that transition. There’s arguably never been a tougher USA XI to predict, and the ways in which the manager can balance competitive experience with competitive exposure are almost endless. It doesn’t do the program much long-term good to simply trot out the most seasoned players and try to wrangle a result. Conversely, throwing the teenagers to the wolves won’t serve anyone’s interest.

Portugal also likely will field a mixed side. Recognizable names like Cristiano Ronaldo, João Moutinho, André Gomes and Renato Sanches are missing from the roster. Younger stars like André Silva (AC Milan) and Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) will get the chance to shine, and there are 12 players called up by coach Fernando Santos who have five caps or fewer.

Sarachan’s final decision is anyone’s guess, but here are a couple stabs—one which prioritizes experience and another that focuses on experimentation.

This 11 has a good shot to be competitive on the day while showcasing several players who should make significant contributions during the 2022 cycle.

Yedlin and Jorge Villafaña often were the first-choice fullbacks under Bruce Arena. John Brooks almost certainly will remain a center back incumbent while Matt Miazga, although inexperienced internationally, now is a regular in the Dutch Eredivisie with Vitesse.

Bedoya said he expected Tuesday’s game to be one in which Portugal “comes out on the offensive,” putting the onus on the USA “to stay compact, tight, and hit them on the counter.” With patterns and partnerships still so nascent, Sarachan will want bodies, cover and options in midfield. Danny Williams is a Premier League defensive midfielder. It makes sense to use him as the anchor.

Bedoya and Acosta are comfortable on both sides of the ball, while Lynden Gooch and Juan Agudelo (or New England teammate Kelyn Rowe) can be the attacking outlets when the ball turns over. Agudelo isn’t typically a wide player. But he’s creative, and he can manage on the left with support behind him. He also can combine or interchange with Acosta or Bedoya. Up front: Dom Dwyer, who scored at the CONCACAF Gold Cup and who’s familiar with playing as a lone striker.

This 11 is less likely to win Tuesday, but probably comes closer to representing a team that might do so in 2022. Despite the danger of defeat, this may be the squad more USA fans want to see in Portugal.

Let’s leave Horvath in net. The Club Brugge starter is only 22, after all—four years younger than Bill Hamid. In front of him, a three-man back line anchored by Carter-Vickers, who’s got experience in that formation with Sheffield United.

When Adams plays wide for the New York Red Bulls, he’s on the right. But the 18-year-old also moves around so frequently and is so adaptable, that trying him on the left here and letting Yedlin stay on his customary flank might work. That leaves Acosta and the marauding Mckennie to form the spine and the links in front of Williams.

Up front: Agudelo—still 24 and comfortable as a second forward—and the 17-year-old, dual-junior-World-Cup-scorer Josh Sargent, who’ll join Werder Bremen next year. It's a lineup that's not pragmatic or practical, but it may just be fun and a bit enlightening, and Sarachan has very little to lose. It’s all been lost already, and so it’s time to start again.

“I never thought I’d be here so soon. The fact that I am is amazing,” Sargent told reporters. “I’m just looking forward to proving that I deserve to be here. We can do it a lot sooner than we thought. It gives the U.S. hope to see a lot of young talents.”

USA vs Portugal: Possible USMNT Lineups and Tactics as Americans Turn A New Page

Asked by a local reporter to discuss Tuesday’s friendly between host Portugal and the USA, American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya was fewer than 30 seconds into his answer when he referenced the game’s charitable purpose.

Wildfires across some 240,000 acres killed more than 100 people in Portugal in June and October, and last month the country’s football federation announced that the proceeds from the match at the Estádio Dr. Magalhães Pessoa in Leiria (near the site of some of the deadliest fires in June) will be funneled toward the victims.

“Hopefully we can help to raise awareness and some money for those families and everything. It’s for a good cause,” Bedoya said in Lisbon.

It’s obviously a cause worthy of the game and, as the U.S. national team stands on the threshold of two years of oblivion, charity remains the best reason to play it. There is no World Cup for which to prepare. There is no tactical foundation to establish. And with U.S. Soccer’s presidential election coming in February and, presumably, a new national team coaching staff and organizational set-up to follow, a clean slate probably is just around the corner. The performances Tuesday will matter only to the extent the next coach decides they should. That extent likely will be small.

Nobody’s international future will be determined, for better or worse. In that context, U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan did the right thing. He cobbled together a one-time-only team featuring out-of-season MLS players who will benefit from an extra few days of decent training, a handful of veterans who will help the visitors avoid embarrassment Tuesday and some of the youth upon whom the USA will rely during the rebuild. This group of players won’t come together again. What’s important, beyond charity, is to do right by Portugal and the spirit of the sport while giving the younger Americans an enticing taste of what it means to represent their country at the highest level.

“We’re professionals. We have a job to do,” Sarachan told reporters. “What makes this week so special for me, personally, is the fact that we’ve assembled a group of players that I feel have a bright future—young players that have shown up with no bitterness in their mouth, no chip on their shoulder, with a lot of enthusiasm.”

Young men like Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Cameron Carter-Vickers won’t need motivation. They’ll be thrilled for the chance to get a taste of national team life and earn their first senior cap against the European champions. More seasoned U.S. internationals like DeAndre Yedlin and Kellyn Acosta—those who are likely to play a role during the 2022 cycle—can begin to establish themselves as leaders. While veterans like Bedoya can think about leaving a legacy.

“It’s a bit of a different role for me now to kind of step up and be a leader,” Yedlin told reporters in Portugal. “When I was young and with this team, I kind of dwelled on the mistakes I made because I thought, ‘Oh, I make a little mistake and I’m going to be out of the team,’ and things like that. It’s normal. I know they’re prob going to be nervous—going to have butterflies—but they just have to realize that they’re here for a reason. They’ve been called upon for a reason. They belong here.”

Bedoya is the oldest, most experienced international in camp. The 30-year-old has 65 caps and appeared in both the 2014 World Cup and in seven of the 16 qualifiers for 2018. Even if he’s not in frame for 2022, there’s still something Bedoya believes he can accomplish.

“This is an opportunity for a lot of people, even the older guys like myself, to show we can continue in the program and give something back, for the young guys and the new players to come in, get a feel of what it’s like to play for the national team, to represent your country and see what the set-up is all about,” Bedoya said.

“I thought there’d probably be wholesale changes throughout the whole team [after losing to Trinidad & Tobago],” Bedoya added. “But at the same time, you go through a transitional phase and you expect some guys, like myself, who’ve been around for a while to be here and get that experience going.”

Sarachan’s lineup in Leiria likely will symbolize that transition. There’s arguably never been a tougher USA XI to predict, and the ways in which the manager can balance competitive experience with competitive exposure are almost endless. It doesn’t do the program much long-term good to simply trot out the most seasoned players and try to wrangle a result. Conversely, throwing the teenagers to the wolves won’t serve anyone’s interest.

Portugal also likely will field a mixed side. Recognizable names like Cristiano Ronaldo, João Moutinho, André Gomes and Renato Sanches are missing from the roster. Younger stars like André Silva (AC Milan) and Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) will get the chance to shine, and there are 12 players called up by coach Fernando Santos who have five caps or fewer.

Sarachan’s final decision is anyone’s guess, but here are a couple stabs—one which prioritizes experience and another that focuses on experimentation.

This 11 has a good shot to be competitive on the day while showcasing several players who should make significant contributions during the 2022 cycle.

Yedlin and Jorge Villafaña often were the first-choice fullbacks under Bruce Arena. John Brooks almost certainly will remain a center back incumbent while Matt Miazga, although inexperienced internationally, now is a regular in the Dutch Eredivisie with Vitesse.

Bedoya said he expected Tuesday’s game to be one in which Portugal “comes out on the offensive,” putting the onus on the USA “to stay compact, tight, and hit them on the counter.” With patterns and partnerships still so nascent, Sarachan will want bodies, cover and options in midfield. Danny Williams is a Premier League defensive midfielder. It makes sense to use him as the anchor.

Bedoya and Acosta are comfortable on both sides of the ball, while Lynden Gooch and Juan Agudelo (or New England teammate Kelyn Rowe) can be the attacking outlets when the ball turns over. Agudelo isn’t typically a wide player. But he’s creative, and he can manage on the left with support behind him. He also can combine or interchange with Acosta or Bedoya. Up front: Dom Dwyer, who scored at the CONCACAF Gold Cup and who’s familiar with playing as a lone striker.

This 11 is less likely to win Tuesday, but probably comes closer to representing a team that might do so in 2022. Despite the danger of defeat, this may be the squad more USA fans want to see in Portugal.

Let’s leave Horvath in net. The Club Brugge starter is only 22, after all—four years younger than Bill Hamid. In front of him, a three-man back line anchored by Carter-Vickers, who’s got experience in that formation with Sheffield United.

When Adams plays wide for the New York Red Bulls, he’s on the right. But the 18-year-old also moves around so frequently and is so adaptable, that trying him on the left here and letting Yedlin stay on his customary flank might work. That leaves Acosta and the marauding Mckennie to form the spine and the links in front of Williams.

Up front: Agudelo—still 24 and comfortable as a second forward—and the 17-year-old, dual-junior-World-Cup-scorer Josh Sargent, who’ll join Werder Bremen next year. It's a lineup that's not pragmatic or practical, but it may just be fun and a bit enlightening, and Sarachan has very little to lose. It’s all been lost already, and so it’s time to start again.

“I never thought I’d be here so soon. The fact that I am is amazing,” Sargent told reporters. “I’m just looking forward to proving that I deserve to be here. We can do it a lot sooner than we thought. It gives the U.S. hope to see a lot of young talents.”

USA vs Portugal: Possible USMNT Lineups and Tactics as Americans Turn A New Page

Asked by a local reporter to discuss Tuesday’s friendly between host Portugal and the USA, American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya was fewer than 30 seconds into his answer when he referenced the game’s charitable purpose.

Wildfires across some 240,000 acres killed more than 100 people in Portugal in June and October, and last month the country’s football federation announced that the proceeds from the match at the Estádio Dr. Magalhães Pessoa in Leiria (near the site of some of the deadliest fires in June) will be funneled toward the victims.

“Hopefully we can help to raise awareness and some money for those families and everything. It’s for a good cause,” Bedoya said in Lisbon.

It’s obviously a cause worthy of the game and, as the U.S. national team stands on the threshold of two years of oblivion, charity remains the best reason to play it. There is no World Cup for which to prepare. There is no tactical foundation to establish. And with U.S. Soccer’s presidential election coming in February and, presumably, a new national team coaching staff and organizational set-up to follow, a clean slate probably is just around the corner. The performances Tuesday will matter only to the extent the next coach decides they should. That extent likely will be small.

Nobody’s international future will be determined, for better or worse. In that context, U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan did the right thing. He cobbled together a one-time-only team featuring out-of-season MLS players who will benefit from an extra few days of decent training, a handful of veterans who will help the visitors avoid embarrassment Tuesday and some of the youth upon whom the USA will rely during the rebuild. This group of players won’t come together again. What’s important, beyond charity, is to do right by Portugal and the spirit of the sport while giving the younger Americans an enticing taste of what it means to represent their country at the highest level.

“We’re professionals. We have a job to do,” Sarachan told reporters. “What makes this week so special for me, personally, is the fact that we’ve assembled a group of players that I feel have a bright future—young players that have shown up with no bitterness in their mouth, no chip on their shoulder, with a lot of enthusiasm.”

Young men like Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Cameron Carter-Vickers won’t need motivation. They’ll be thrilled for the chance to get a taste of national team life and earn their first senior cap against the European champions. More seasoned U.S. internationals like DeAndre Yedlin and Kellyn Acosta—those who are likely to play a role during the 2022 cycle—can begin to establish themselves as leaders. While veterans like Bedoya can think about leaving a legacy.

“It’s a bit of a different role for me now to kind of step up and be a leader,” Yedlin told reporters in Portugal. “When I was young and with this team, I kind of dwelled on the mistakes I made because I thought, ‘Oh, I make a little mistake and I’m going to be out of the team,’ and things like that. It’s normal. I know they’re prob going to be nervous—going to have butterflies—but they just have to realize that they’re here for a reason. They’ve been called upon for a reason. They belong here.”

Bedoya is the oldest, most experienced international in camp. The 30-year-old has 65 caps and appeared in both the 2014 World Cup and in seven of the 16 qualifiers for 2018. Even if he’s not in frame for 2022, there’s still something Bedoya believes he can accomplish.

“This is an opportunity for a lot of people, even the older guys like myself, to show we can continue in the program and give something back, for the young guys and the new players to come in, get a feel of what it’s like to play for the national team, to represent your country and see what the set-up is all about,” Bedoya said.

“I thought there’d probably be wholesale changes throughout the whole team [after losing to Trinidad & Tobago],” Bedoya added. “But at the same time, you go through a transitional phase and you expect some guys, like myself, who’ve been around for a while to be here and get that experience going.”

Sarachan’s lineup in Leiria likely will symbolize that transition. There’s arguably never been a tougher USA XI to predict, and the ways in which the manager can balance competitive experience with competitive exposure are almost endless. It doesn’t do the program much long-term good to simply trot out the most seasoned players and try to wrangle a result. Conversely, throwing the teenagers to the wolves won’t serve anyone’s interest.

Portugal also likely will field a mixed side. Recognizable names like Cristiano Ronaldo, João Moutinho, André Gomes and Renato Sanches are missing from the roster. Younger stars like André Silva (AC Milan) and Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) will get the chance to shine, and there are 12 players called up by coach Fernando Santos who have five caps or fewer.

Sarachan’s final decision is anyone’s guess, but here are a couple stabs—one which prioritizes experience and another that focuses on experimentation.

This 11 has a good shot to be competitive on the day while showcasing several players who should make significant contributions during the 2022 cycle.

Yedlin and Jorge Villafaña often were the first-choice fullbacks under Bruce Arena. John Brooks almost certainly will remain a center back incumbent while Matt Miazga, although inexperienced internationally, now is a regular in the Dutch Eredivisie with Vitesse.

Bedoya said he expected Tuesday’s game to be one in which Portugal “comes out on the offensive,” putting the onus on the USA “to stay compact, tight, and hit them on the counter.” With patterns and partnerships still so nascent, Sarachan will want bodies, cover and options in midfield. Danny Williams is a Premier League defensive midfielder. It makes sense to use him as the anchor.

Bedoya and Acosta are comfortable on both sides of the ball, while Lynden Gooch and Juan Agudelo (or New England teammate Kelyn Rowe) can be the attacking outlets when the ball turns over. Agudelo isn’t typically a wide player. But he’s creative, and he can manage on the left with support behind him. He also can combine or interchange with Acosta or Bedoya. Up front: Dom Dwyer, who scored at the CONCACAF Gold Cup and who’s familiar with playing as a lone striker.

This 11 is less likely to win Tuesday, but probably comes closer to representing a team that might do so in 2022. Despite the danger of defeat, this may be the squad more USA fans want to see in Portugal.

Let’s leave Horvath in net. The Club Brugge starter is only 22, after all—four years younger than Bill Hamid. In front of him, a three-man back line anchored by Carter-Vickers, who’s got experience in that formation with Sheffield United.

When Adams plays wide for the New York Red Bulls, he’s on the right. But the 18-year-old also moves around so frequently and is so adaptable, that trying him on the left here and letting Yedlin stay on his customary flank might work. That leaves Acosta and the marauding Mckennie to form the spine and the links in front of Williams.

Up front: Agudelo—still 24 and comfortable as a second forward—and the 17-year-old, dual-junior-World-Cup-scorer Josh Sargent, who’ll join Werder Bremen next year. It's a lineup that's not pragmatic or practical, but it may just be fun and a bit enlightening, and Sarachan has very little to lose. It’s all been lost already, and so it’s time to start again.

“I never thought I’d be here so soon. The fact that I am is amazing,” Sargent told reporters. “I’m just looking forward to proving that I deserve to be here. We can do it a lot sooner than we thought. It gives the U.S. hope to see a lot of young talents.”

Jack Cork nearly missed his chance to finally make England debut

Jack Cork has revealed how he almost missed the chance to finally make his senior England debut. Midfielder Cork has played for England at every age group and also represented his country in the 2012 Olympics. The withdrawals of Dele Alli, Fabian Delph and Jordan Henderson prompted a late call up to the full England squad for the friendlies against Germany and Brazil after Cork had already packed his bags to go on holiday. “I was about to go on holiday with the missus and the kids when the gaffer called me in the morning and said 'do you want to come?',” said Cork. “I was going to Dubai with them, they're over there now.” The holiday meant his wife and children missed his England debut, as Cork made a substitutes’ appearance against Germany. But his father Alan, who played for Wimbledon and Sheffield United, was at Wembley. Cork's family missed his England debut as they were in Dubai Credit: AFP “They've gone and took my mum over to help with the kids. I told them to go because I didn't think I'd feature against Germany, I thought there'd be more chance on Tuesday and I'd maybe get on then. “I've had other family at Wembley and they'll be alright. There'll be pictures and stuff. I'm sure my Mum will have been buzzing, having a couple of drinks because she'd have been nervous. They'll be happy.” Cork was tipped for big things as a youngster at Chelsea, but has had to battle back through League One and the Championship to finally get his England chance, aged 28, after moving to Burnley in the summer. “It's amazing,” said Cork. “I feel like I've done it the hard way, I've done my graft and played all the games from League One, to Championship - put myself out there. I feel like I've played enough games to have merited a chance and I'm just really happy the manager has trusted me to get in there.” Sam Wallace's Power Rankings 42:04 Cork has been an integral part of Burnley’s superb start to the season, having completed a surprise £10 million move from Swansea City. “The move came quite quickly at the start of the summer. It wasn't in anyone's minds I don't think, the club's, my family's or mine,” said Cork. “It just seemed like the right thing at the right time. I spoke to both managers and it went through. It couldn't have gone any better and it's been the perfect start to the season.”

Jack Cork nearly missed his chance to finally make England debut

Jack Cork has revealed how he almost missed the chance to finally make his senior England debut. Midfielder Cork has played for England at every age group and also represented his country in the 2012 Olympics. The withdrawals of Dele Alli, Fabian Delph and Jordan Henderson prompted a late call up to the full England squad for the friendlies against Germany and Brazil after Cork had already packed his bags to go on holiday. “I was about to go on holiday with the missus and the kids when the gaffer called me in the morning and said 'do you want to come?',” said Cork. “I was going to Dubai with them, they're over there now.” The holiday meant his wife and children missed his England debut, as Cork made a substitutes’ appearance against Germany. But his father Alan, who played for Wimbledon and Sheffield United, was at Wembley. Cork's family missed his England debut as they were in Dubai Credit: AFP “They've gone and took my mum over to help with the kids. I told them to go because I didn't think I'd feature against Germany, I thought there'd be more chance on Tuesday and I'd maybe get on then. “I've had other family at Wembley and they'll be alright. There'll be pictures and stuff. I'm sure my Mum will have been buzzing, having a couple of drinks because she'd have been nervous. They'll be happy.” Cork was tipped for big things as a youngster at Chelsea, but has had to battle back through League One and the Championship to finally get his England chance, aged 28, after moving to Burnley in the summer. “It's amazing,” said Cork. “I feel like I've done it the hard way, I've done my graft and played all the games from League One, to Championship - put myself out there. I feel like I've played enough games to have merited a chance and I'm just really happy the manager has trusted me to get in there.” Sam Wallace's Power Rankings 42:04 Cork has been an integral part of Burnley’s superb start to the season, having completed a surprise £10 million move from Swansea City. “The move came quite quickly at the start of the summer. It wasn't in anyone's minds I don't think, the club's, my family's or mine,” said Cork. “It just seemed like the right thing at the right time. I spoke to both managers and it went through. It couldn't have gone any better and it's been the perfect start to the season.”

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