Dion Dublin and a serious case of hero worship....
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
I'm going to struggle to hide a bit of hero worship stuff here. At my age I should know better, but I am afraid that this week I succumbed to a 60-minute return to my early teens.
It was Dion Dublin's fault; if he hadn't popped his head into Archant Towers it wouldn't have happened.
Dion has made an easy transition from footballer to media person, with plenty of musical interest thrown in for good measure. What a lot of people don't know is, to coin a phrase, he does a lot of work for charidee. And if he likes to talk about it, it is because he wants to make as much money as he can.
Dion was happy enough to sit with me in our Mustard TV studios and discuss his forthcoming Dion Dublin Ball of Sound Tour, which kicks off at Carrow Road on February 14 and raises money for the Prince's Trust charity, of which he has been an ambassador for two decades.
This is a man who appears on Match of the Day, MUTV, Premier League TV - it could have been a career-busting decision. But the consummate professional waltzed me through it, or at least that's how it felt.
Playing with Dion must have been a dream. I can see why him and Darren Huckerby get on so well. He does have a tendency to make you feel at ease and if him and Hucks were out at Carrow Road this afternoon, as a pair of 25-year-olds, I don't think we would be worrying too much about City's chances. They'd tear it up.
I have often wondered who, during my time here in Norfolk, has been the club's best signing. The list consists of two names: Hucks and Dion. I mentioned this to Dion (a bit teenage I know, but, hey). 'If I am second behind Hucks, that would do me,' he laughed. The laugh, incidentally, is a bellow. Dion is a big bloke – he isn't too far off his playing weight.
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We chatted about City, of course, and he was very definitely of the view that Norwich won't be relegated; there are, he says, worse teams out there. But he did believe that a bit of the Paul Lambert passion wouldn't go amiss.
We chatted about his career, and that marvellous final day on May 4, 2008, when the curtain came down at Hillsborough when Glenn Roeder had the good grace to substitute him after 66 minutes so that he could enjoy a stunning farewell from players, match referee and a crowd of 36,208, who, almost to a man, rose to their feet in appreciation. The only shame was that Huckerby was not granted the same, deserved, farewell.
The magic moment is available for viewing from the Dublin DVD collection – which must be growing by the week, given his regular appearances for the Beeb.
'It (Match of the Day) is good show, it's very well done. What people don't realise is – I have done it six or seven times – you have to be there at mid-day; it is a long, long day. You watch all the games, do all the edit – there is a lot that goes into it and that is why it has stood the test of time. I am quite fortunate to get into that show and Final Score and Football Focus, they are all legendary shows.'
Sitting in a studio with Dion is easy – he has the experience to guide you through. behind the scenes, away from the camera, the delight is that the man is the same off-screen. His laugh is big and strong, his manner easy-going. Drop a few names and you get no negative replies; he doesn't really do criticism. Mention Robbie Savage, though, and his mood changes ever so slightly. Savage, you will recall, was on the end of a Dublin head-butt during a Villa v Birmingham game in 2003.
Years later, Savage wrote: 'I always thought Dion and I had quite a lot in common. We both broke our legs. We both broke our necks. We both went for around £8m in transfer fees. And neither of us were good enough to play for Manchester United!'
As usual, Savage is wide of the mark, as was his assertion that Dion was never forthcoming with the media.
Rubbish: When he was at City he was brilliant. Which is probably where that darned hero worship began.
I did rather disgrace myself at the very end of our interview when I became tongue tied and called him Dublin, which I never ever do.. The shame of it. Typically, Dion laughed it off. What a gent.
Brace yourselves – you can see the full interview at mustardtv.co.uk
Browsing the pages of this august publication on Thursday my eyes were attracted to an advertisement in the jobs section.
'Delia's Canary Catering at Norwich City Football Clubs. Matchday Chefs Required.'
Dedication, enthusiasm were required to work on first team matchdays. 'We offer good rates of pay, flexible working hours and a unique working environment.'
It's manna from heaven in a way – almost everything apart from the cooking bit can apply to the first team manager's job – and even then it isn't difficult to link the two.
The rates of pay for a manager are good, very good; the working hours are flexible – and extremely long I would suggest; and there is absolutely no doubt the working environment is unique.
But there are downsides, as Chris Hughton is discovering. The shelf life of a manager can be short. Thick skin is required – Hughton appears to have it, although one or two of his predecessors, and other managers around the country, have gossamer like stuff holding them together given their reaction to some of the criticism they have received.
I would imagine there are few occupations where, if you don't do your job to the complete satisfaction of your 'customers' or 'clients' you are open to the sort of abuse which has been directed at football managers.
Hughton has been on the receiving end of an awful lot of stick, and this afternoon will have to step out in front of 26,000 ultra-critical critics waiting to pounce. Fair enough: he went for the job knowing the consequences of failure; he knows the paying fans are entitled to vent their feelings. Doesn't make it any more palatable.
He won't be alone this afternoon - dozens of managers and players will be under similar scrutiny.
I wouldn't mind the reward, but I wouldn't like to go through that sort of stuff.
I get cheesed off when someone makes adverse comments on a story they disagree with - but clearly haven't read it properly. Fortunately, the frustration lasts only a short while.
But being part of the managerial merry-go-round with its attendant microscopic scrutiny?
Rather be a chef. Cue email from Mr Contempt..
Not been the best of weeks for East Anglian football.
The Canaries' exit at Fulham on Tuesday, following hot on the heels of the 2-0 defeat at Everton in the league, piled the pressure on manager Chris Hughton.
Ipswich went down at home to QPR on Saturday and then exited the cup at Preston, while MK Dons (which TV companies have moved 50 miles east for some unknown reason) also went out of the cup, as did Peterborough.
Posh's defeat at home to non-league Kidderminster was embarrassing enough, it seems, for Darren Ferguson, pictured, to dodge the pre-match media obligations for today's League One at home to Tranmere. Instead, experienced midfielder Grant McCann provided the pre-match comments.
I do object to managers ducking out of such things; no matter how cheesed off or annoyed they are, the fans deserve to hear from the man who makes the decisions.
Whether Fergie wants to hold his tongue in case he says something he shouldn't, or is deflated enough to admit he has nothing else to say - whatever the version, the fans deserve better. If he is ill, then no problem – that moves the goalposts, but managers throughout the land have a habit of sending in a replacement when the going gets tough.
Maybe it's the draconian punishment that is meted out for managers who cannot but help speak their mind. In a sport where we, the fans, cherish honesty and every single thought of the man in charge, I do feel managers are forced to hold their tongues because it may cost them.
Managers are perhaps coiled like a spring 10 minutes after the final whistle, but if they can't control themselves, it's hardly our fault is it?