A big day for Dublin
CHRIS LAKEY Dion Dublin is 37, going on 38, he has an FA Cup losers' medal and he has a hat-trick against Chelsea on his CV - but he still gets excited at the prospect of one last hurrah on the big stage this weekend.
Dion Dublin is 37, going on 38, he has an FA Cup losers' medal and he has a hat-trick against Chelsea on his CV - but he still gets excited at the prospect of one last hurrah on the big stage this weekend.
“I am excited because I never thought I'd be able to play in a Premier League ground again against a Premier League team in the FA Cup,” he said.
“I'm really looking forward to it. I know it's going to be hard, but I always play with a smile on my face.”
When the referee blew the final whistle after 120 minutes of Tuesday's fourth-round replay win over Blackpool, Dublin's dream was realised - but his first thoughts were for players who are embarking on the road he set out on getting on for 19 years ago.
“I was just very pleased,” he said. “It might sound like a cliché, but I was really pleased for the younger players, the lads who might not be on the pitch, people like (Robert) Eagle. They are going to be travelling to Chelsea, possibly warming up down the line with the Lampards and Terrys on the pitch.
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“I think it is going to be great for them to see that and experience that and hopefully, if they can, get themselves a shirt or something, just to say I played at Chelsea, I was involved.”
The advice to the squad's younger players is simple.
“Try and take it all in,” said Dublin. “It is going to be massive for them. Try and take the stadium in, the players you are going to be playing against, the fans, the atmosphere, because they may get there, they may not.
“Watch what their players do, take what their players do and try and use it yourself, because they are a superb side.”
Dublin experienced highs with Cambridge United, when they reached the quarter-finals, and the ultimate low with Aston Villa, when he finished on the losing side, to Chelsea, in the 2000 final.
Toppling the two-time defending English champions would be, Dublin joked, “a massive shock to us”, but he believes the current Chelsea side is still not up there with the best he has ever seen.
That accolade belongs to the Manchester United side he was a member of between 1992 and 1994.
“They are up there,” he said. “But I find it hard to look past the United team I was involved in, with (Bryan) Robson, (Mark) Hughes, (Brian) McClair and (Eric) Cantona. I find it hard to look past that one, but they are a very, very close second or third, because Arsenal have had some good sides.
“They (Chelsea) are a big club and a great club, they are just trying to take that on to the pitch now to become a great team and a very successful team.”
Should Dublin, as expected, line up alongside Jason Shackell in the centre of Norwich's defence, he will face the continent's leading scorer, Didier Drogba - a prospect he relishes.
“I don't mind the prospect of playing up front or at the back,” he said. “If I have to play at the back against Drogba it is a challenge.
“He is probably one of the best in the world. I know he will probably leave me dead for pace, which is what I expect, but I have to be a thinking man's footballer now.
“It is his goals, it's all about goals - how you create them and how you score them. He has scored so many goals you can't really criticise any part of his game. He is a big lad, he is very quick and he will continue to score goals this season It will be hard job for us.”