My Favourite Player: Dion Dublin

– by Dave Methold

As a Norwich City fan, I have seen first-hand what Dion Dublin is capable of. I have never seen a player throw himself into challenges or win headers with as much passion and commitment as Dublin. He’s a legend, no argument.

Dublin spent six years playing for Villa, before finishing his career in 2008 with first club Norwich City. Photo: Alex Blackburne

Dublin started and finished his career at Norwich, but so much was to happen to him in the 18 years between spells at Carrow Road. Leaving school in 1985 at the age of 16 was a huge risk for Dublin, but Norwich saw the potential and signed him up to a professional contract. However, they didn’t see quite enough potential to actually play him, so in 1988, the Canaries released the man that in 20 years time would become a cult hero in Norfolk.

Dublin was snapped up by then-Fourth Division (now League Two) side Cambridge United. This is where he made his name as a good old fashioned centre forward, having been billed as a centre half at Norwich. 52 goals in 156 appearances led Cambridge to back-to-back promotions with Dion scoring the first ever Wembley play-off final goal in 1990. They suddenly found themselves in the play-offs in the old Second Division but failed to get promoted for the third successive season and Dublin was subsequently put up for sale.

In what many considered a shock move, Dublin then found himself playing at Old Trafford for Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. Somewhat unsurprisingly, chances were limited at United, and he played just 12 times in two seasons, scoring twice. A broken leg was to blame in his first season, ruling him out for six months. By the time he fully recovered, Ferguson had delved into the market to uncover a certain Eric Cantona. Needless to say, Dublin didn’t stand a chance.

He was sold to Coventry City for £2million in 1994 and went on to become a Sky Blues legend, scoring 61 times in 145 games. Probably best known for his partnership with another Norwich legend, Darren Huckerby, Dublin scored more goals than anybody else in Coventry’s history in the top-flight of English football. By now, Dion was drawing the attention of England boss Glenn Hoddle and won four England caps in 1998, but was surprisingly omitted from the 1998 World Cup squad, despite finishing joint top Premier League goal scorer that season along with Michael Owen.

Coventry fans felt betrayed by Dublin when he turned down a move to Blackburn in favour of a transfer to arch rivals Aston Villa for £5.75million. Had he not had a goal disallowed on his debut, and not missed a penalty in the 4-2 defeat by Liverpool, Dublin would have set an amazing record of three hat-tricks in his first three games for Villa. He then suffered a horrific, life-threatening injury in late 1999 when he broke his neck – an injury he has never fully recovered from, as to this day he has a titanium plate holding three neck vertebrae together. A brief loan spell at Millwall followed before he went on to score 48 goals in 155 appearances for Villa.

When his contract expired in 2004, he was released and he continued his tour of the Midlands with a move to Leicester City. The move did not turn out to be a good one, as Dublin scored just four goals in his debut season, and subsequently got moved back to centre half. His contract was terminated by mutual consent shortly afterwards. Half a season at Celtic followed where he won a league and cup medal, before heading south of the border back to where it all began: Norwich City.

Dublin was a figure head at the back and the front of Norwich’s attack and in two seasons back at Carrow Road, he was voted second and then first in the fans’ player of the season award.

My best ever memory of any football game was the sight at Hillsborough on May 4th, 2008. Norwich away at Sheffield Wednesday: Dion Dublin’s last ever match. The performance and result was not important, all that mattered was that the legend got the perfect send off. Every one of the 36,208 fans in attendance that day rose to their feet in the 66th minute as Dublin was substituted. He was given a standing ovation by every single fan, every single member of staff and even the referee. It was a mark of the man that he applauded them back and as I stood there with goose bumps on my arms, it suddenly started to dawn on me that it was the end of an era.

There is only one Dion Dublin.

– Dave Methold is a University of Lincoln Journalism graduate.

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