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Defenders RIP?

English Barclays Premiership

George Graham has lamented the 'dying art' of defending in the Premiership.

Famed for his defensive expertise, the manager claimed at Thursday's press conference that the standard of defending in the country is poor and that clubs had ignored it in favour of attacking football.

"We're running out in this country of defenders who can defend," he said. "Everyone is talking about playing from the back which is wonderful but a defender's job is to defend.

"Martin Keown is one of the best defenders in the country over the last few years and probably a rare breed nowadays.

"Chris Perry is a good marker and Sol Campbell is outstanding with another marker alongside him. But the standard of defending in this country is poor."

The subject arose as George talked about his defensive options in Campbell's absence for Saturday's game against Manchester City.

Ledley King was suggested to him but George insisted that he saw the youngster, just back from injury, as a midfielder in the long term.

He continued: "Ledley is what I would call in old-fashioned terms a 'number two'. He would pick up all the bits and pieces and come out with the ball at the back.

"I would say the country is full of these 'number twos' who like playing from the back which is lovely, there is nothing wrong with that, but I like to see defenders when they are under pressure coping to defend

I think it is a dying art in our game and that is because we've not concentrated on it.

"We've ignored it to work on passing, movement and attacking and that has definitely improved our game, but we've ignored defending.

"That is why big clubs are now looking abroad for defenders. Alex Ferguson knows every defender in Europe. He bought Jaap Stam and is probably looking for another continental defender.

"It's sad because 20 years ago you used to shake a tree and six centre-halves would fall out."