No matter what happens to Norwich City over the next four weeks or so one bright light is about to go out. There will be plenty of tributes to Dion Dublin between now and May 4th when his playing career finally comes to an end and he deserves every word.
I was lucky enough to be asked to host 'An Evening With Dion Dublin' at Carrow Road recently and it served to confirm everything I and everybody else had ever thought about him.
The fact that more than 400 people were prepared to fork out for the event on a cold Wednesday night with an England game on TV shows the level of respect that Dion Dublin commands. Granted, as it turned out 'An Evening With Kevin Muscat' might have been just as entertaining as France v England but they weren't to know that.
One thing that did become clear is how emotional the dying embers of this season will be for the Norwich No9. I got the impression the reality of retirement has begun to dawn on Dion. The man in charge of the music on the night picked 'My Way' to end proceedings, prompting Dion to return to the stage after he had already said his thank you and goodnights to point out : “Hang on, I'm not finished quite yet…”
Don't build up your hopes about this being a Frank Sinatra-style retirement. The most common Q in the Q&A session revolved around whether there was any chance of just one more season. Emotional perhaps, decisive definitely, the end is nigh for Dion Dublin's playing career and if he does turn out at Carrow Road next season it will be from the Dark Side: He's joining the mass ranks of the Media.
He is one of those blokes that you just know will be positively brilliant alongside Jeff Stelling, Chris Kamara and Co on a Saturday afternoon on satellite television. He will also know what he is talking about – which means there will be a few journalists shuffling awkwardly in the Press rooms of the country when he walks in!
Undoubtably the Dion Dublin effect at Carrow Road has been huge. I have lost count of the number of times the phrase 'brilliant to have around the place' has come up over the past 18 months or so.
He is 38-years-old and these days many footballers have already been sacked from their first managerial job by that age, but he will be difficult to replace as a character and as a player.
After exhausting the prospect of getting another 12 months out of those legs the next most asked Q was the logical 'Well, what about a coaching role then?'
Again, don't hold your breath. After being told what to wear, when to turn up and what to eat for more than 20 years Dion told the audience he is ready for a break from that side of the game. Time with the family will be the priority come August and the lure of some work in the Media is much easier and requires less of the sort of discipline he wants to get away from.
I probably should not be admitting that about Media work. Boy, is it tough…
Whether we see him in a dugout at some point in the future remains to be seen. The man himself can't know how he'll feel in mid-August when players are running out for the start of the 2008/09 season and, to borrow a phrase from Norfolk's own Stephen Fry in Blackadder, particularly if he's 'sat on the touchline with the fat wheezy boys…'.
If he wants to get back into the game and pass on some of that wisdom there will be no shortage of ex-team-mates now in managers' jobs of their own needing someone who is 'brilliant to have around the place.' As Dublin pointed out to the assembled audience at Carrow Road, the offer 'has to be right.'
Every goal now stands a chance of being the final one of that glittering career. If DD never does score again, it hardly matters. That beautiful chip in the final minute against Colchester United to ice the cake of the 5-1 win would be a fitting way to finish. Had the 35-yarder from earlier in the match gone in rather than hit the crossbar, he would have been quite entitled to walk off the pitch and hang up his boots right there and then.
A DVD on some big screens around the room played out some of the best moments from Dion Dublin's career during his event at Carrow Road. He still regards getting Cambridge United to Wembley – and scoring – as a personal highlight and that was before he had been anywhere near playing at the top level.
I had never realised that Sir Alex Ferguson only signed Eric Cantona after Dublin had broken his leg. If that is what it takes to replace him then Norwich City have their work cut out. I wonder whether Cantona might consider a Carrow Road comeback?
If you are looking for scandal you have come to the wrong place. The most controversial statement from Dublin on the night was to reveal the two opponents he really doesn't like. Neither name would come as a great surprise and his sentiments would probably be widely supported by many fans. No I'm not going to tell you, you should have been there…
I was going to end this piece by pointing out that one major achievement has escaped Dion Dublin: During the meal the big screens showed a loop of all of his goals from his two seasons as a Norwich player. Unless they missed one out of the footage there was something that struck me as we watched each strike over and over again: He had never scored at the Barclay End of Carrow Road.
I virtually had this column written when, sure enough, he goes and sticks one in at The Barclay after just 61 seconds against Burnley.
With that in mind I feel it only right to point out that he has never scored a hat-trick at Portman Road in an East Anglian Derby. Over to you then Dion…
PS: I just wanted to point out that the 'Evening With Dion Dublin' raised more than ?2,000 for Dion's chosen charity The Sheringham Lifeboat.
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