Dion Dublin borrowed the words of his big pal Darren Huckerby as he bowed out of professional football at Colney this afternoon.
“I've done my time,” said City's newly-crowned Player of the Season – his 22-year career at the top of the English game due to end at a little before four o'clock Sunday afternoon in front of a sold-out Hillsborough; some 742 games and 234 goals after it all started.
After that and it will be all over. Fatherhood will be the name of the game – school plays on a Tuesday night, rugby matches on a Saturday morning. That and a regular spot on the Sky Sports sofa.
“I don't know how I'm going to cope with it,” he said, as one of the great careers of recent times comes to an end and Dublin follows Colchester United's Teddy Sheringham off into the sunset and heads back to the family home near Stratford.
“It's going to be incredibly strange,” he added, quizzed as to how odd it is going to be not having to get up every morning to go training.
“It's going to be strange, but I think it is something that I need to do right now – my body needs a rest. And I think I need to be at home now having been away long enough for two-and-a-half years – I need to go home and help a little bit,” said the 39-year-old, after a spell north of the border with Celtic before then-Canary boss Nigel Worthington added the former Manchester United and Aston Villa striker to his dressing room mix with virtually his last managerial move of note.
Given that 18 months later and Dublin rides off into the distance with the Player of the Season trophy slung from the saddle and his arrival in Norfolk in that poisoned autumn of 2006 wasn't exactly the worst decision of Worthington's reign.
Over those 22 years he had, he said, just one, major regret; one 'What if…' moment. Signing on again for the Canaries for one last tour of duty wasn't it.
“I guess there was a 60-40 chance that I was going to retire, but I felt OK – I felt there was another season there. And I'd enjoyed it so much last year which was great – and I'm glad I took the decision to stay on because, individually, I think I've done OK.
“I haven't done as well as thought I could have done; could have scored more goals; played better in defence – I think. And the team hasn't performed at all this year – I don't think. But the potential for this team to perform is huge. And for this club too – to succeed and win things. Because I think they [Norwich] do things in the right way.
“And I'll miss not being part it – being part of this club. But I think 22 years… I've quoted Darren Huckerby before, but he said: 'Dion, you've done your time…' and I think he's hit the nail on the head.”
The next chapter starts in earnest in August when he joins the Sky Sports set-up and in so doing crosses from being one side of the microphone to the other. “It's kind of scary.
“For I don't know where it's going to take me being that side of the microphone, so to speak. But looking forward to it – looking forward to the challenge, to the change and to the rest physically.”
And looking forward to getting back to simply being a dad. “Completely – there's things that they have missed out on over the last two-and-a-half years and if there's parents in the room, you know the things that I'm talking about. A play here; a rugby match there.
“It's all that that you miss out on and your partner has to do it when you're not there – my wife's done it for two-and-a-half years and it's not easy. So I think it's about time that I started to pull my weight a little.”
The 'What if…' moment was, of course, the broken leg that all but ended his Manchester United career before it had started. A dream ?1 million move to Old Trafford in 1992 was just nine days old when he broke his leg badly playing against Crystal Palace. His next – and only – appearance would come the following season in March, 1994, by when a certain Eric Cantona had been installed to take the 24-year-old's place.
“I'm not saying I'd have still been there now, but maybe… I don't know. Gone on to have had more England caps. Possibly played at the best club in the world for more than two-and-a-half years.
“It's not a regret because I had no control over the situation, but I do look back some times and think: 'Maybe…' but they had to bring in some guy called Eric to cover me. So it took some player, didn't it? And I was never getting back in when he signed.
“But that's the only one – where I look back and think: 'Well, maybe I could have done something or been someone else…'”
As it was, of course, spells at Coventry City, Aston Villa, Leicester City and Celtic would follow before he came back, full circle, to Norwich – the club where it all started as a hopeful 17-year-old lad from Leicester. It finishes at Hillsborough on Sunday in front of 4,000-plus travelling Canary fans – and the small matter of an Owls full house for a game they simply cannot afford to lose.
“It's going to be great – 40,000 I think they're saying; one of the biggest gates all season,” he said. A fitting stage, in fairness – and all in front of 20-25 close family and friends. One last chance to see the old man in action before dad comes home for good.
“If there's tears in your eyes, they're there for a reason,” added Dublin. “And I'm sure there will be a lot of sadness come Sunday – knowing that 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 what I know; that's my niche; that's my skill. And I've applied it for so long. I think there will be some tears – whether they are on show or not, I don't know…”
Typically of both the man and the professional, he was determined that Sunday's final game was about rather more than D Dublin's last appearance of a team sheet. There was a job to be done.
“We're safe, but it's not enough. Not enough. We need to go out with a win,” he said. “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. So the least we can do on Sunday is to give the fans, who have come to the games in their droves this season, something to smile about.
“And a bit of pride for us. To wake up on Monday morning and knowing that we've played well; that we've got a result.”
Nor was he looking for any final favours team-wise.
“Obviously, I'd like to start – but I'd like to start on merit. I'd like to start because of what I can bring to the team – not because it's my last game.”
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