I’m giving up the best job in the world - Dion
David Cuffley There may be a strong sense of déjà vu for Norwich City fans - and Dion Dublin in particular - at Hillsborough tomorrow. Last season, on exactly the same weekend, the Canaries played the final match of their Coca-Cola Championship campaign away to Sheffield Wednesday.
There may be a strong sense of déjà vu for Norwich City fans - and Dion Dublin in particular - at Hillsborough tomorrow.
Last season, on exactly the same weekend, the Canaries played the final match of their Coca-Cola Championship campaign away to Sheffield Wednesday.
After City's 3-2 defeat, Dublin, who scored on the day, was given a tremendous ovation by both sets of supporters, who sensed they may have witnessed the last appearance of the veteran striker's career.
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Manager Peter Grant gave the old warrior 10 days to decide whether he wanted to stay on for another season, and Dublin was as good as his word, coming back with his answer right on deadline, although his decision was not made public for at least a couple of weeks.
This time, as the 39-year-old former England international returns to South Yorkshire, the farewells will be for real. After two decades in professional football, it really is the last hurrah.
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But Dublin is in no doubt he made the right decision last summer. After 38 appearances and seven goals for City in 2006-07, he has added another 40 outings and nine goals to his career tally this term. The extra year was worth all the punishment of training and keeping his body in shape - the sore knees and sore Achilles - and the time spent away from home.
“Oh gosh, yes. Without a doubt. There was a 60-40 chance that I was going to retire last year,” he said. “But I felt OK. I felt there was another season there, I enjoyed it so much last year as well, which was great.
“And I'm glad I took the decision to stay on because I think individually I've done OK. I haven't done as well as I thought I could. I thought I could have scored more goals and played better in defence. The team hasn't performed at all this year, I don't think. But the potential for this team to perform is huge again, and for this club to succeed and win things because I think they do things in the right way.
“I'll miss not being part of it completely - this club - but I think after 22 years . . . I've quoted Darren Huckerby before, and he said 'You've done your time' and I think he's hit the nail on the head.”
Whether tomorrow also proves to be a farewell occasion for 32-year-old Huckerby remains to be seen, with City manager Glenn Roeder planning talks with all his out-of-contract players early in the week.
But Dublin is in no doubt that the Canaries owe tomorrow's big travelling contingent of well over 4,000 fans - their biggest away following of the season - “something to smile about” after a third successive season of under-achievement.
“It would be great for me to get another goal and get into double figures. But ideally, first and foremost, we just want a good team performance,” he said.
“I'm sure the fans want exactly that and with a good team performance, a win. And we don't want to go there and do anybody else any favours apart from ourselves, really. A bit of pride is at stake here for Norwich City in general.
“Yes, we're safe, but we've achieved nothing really. We've achieved nothing this season. Safety for this club should be bread and water, to be honest with you. And we've just scraped safety which, in my opinion, is not very good, from the players' point of view.
“The least we can do is give the fans who have come to the ground in their droves a good performance and a good result.”
If the chance to reach 10 goals for the season presents itself from the penalty spot, will he grab the ball?
“I'll be putting my name forward. I'm sure Jamie Cureton will want to take it, but as he's half my size, I don't think he's got a chance!” said Dublin.
His new career in broadcasting with Sky Sports will start in August, kicking off the new season on the other side of the white line.
“It's kind of scary because I don't know where it's going to take me,” he said. “I'm going to be on that side of the microphone, away from answering the questions and how I feel about playing the game, but I'm looking forward to a new chapter, looking forward to the change, looking forward to the rest physically.
“I've done this now for 22 years - wear that T-shirt, don't eat that, don't drink that, be there at half nine, we leave at this time - so I'm trying to get out of that regimented life that I've had for so long.”
Becoming the oldest winner of City's player of the season award last Saturday was the perfect Carrow Road send-off for Dublin, he admitted. He said he hoped he had won the award on merit, not because he is retiring.
“It's a really nice way for me to go out of the game, still knowing I can contribute to the game and make a difference when I do come on or when I start a game. I don't want the game to retire me, I don't want to go out on crutches, touch wood, so I'm doing it my way. I'm leaving the game my way,” he said.
“At the age of nine I started at Leicester City and I was there until I was 15, so I've known nothing else. In between the ages of 15 and 17, I worked in an ice cream factory, in a hosiery factory, in a leisure centre, and I played for non-League clubs in and around Leicestershire and I know what it's like not to be a footballer. I know what it's like to work 60 hours, 70 hours and get £80 a week. I know what it's like to go to work on a moped with a big backpack on.
“So being a footballer so long has made me appreciate how lucky footballers in general are. Being a footballer as a male person is the best job in the world.”
Dublin may have to fight to hold back the tears tomorrow, but is happy to bow out with the club that gave him a three-month trial fully 20 years ago.
“I'm sure there will be a lot of sadness on Sunday, knowing I'm not going to step over the white line again, if I get over the white line in the first place, because that's all I know,” he said.
“I can't really think of a better place to finish, having started at Norwich. The circle's complete. My career feels complete.”