THE BOY DUNN GOOD

Black­burn leg­end and Old­ham in­terim boss David Dunn’s ca­reer in pro­file

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

DRAGGED to Ewood Park by a friend of his gran, David Dunn’s ear­li­est mem­ory of Black­burn Rovers was that it was “bloody cold, and a bloody long way”. Thirty years and 378 games later, he left the old place with a lump in his throat and a tear in his eye, revered as one of Rovers’ great­est ser­vants. “His love for Black­burn was there for all to see,” said Sam Al­lardyce, his man­ager at Ewood. “If he wasn’t play­ing for them, he’d be talk­ing about them. He might have been a player, but he was a fan above all else.”

And the love is mu­tual. To many in East Lan­cashire, Dunn is the great­est Black­burn player of his gen­er­a­tion, a midfielder of im­mense nat­u­ral abil­ity – who would have shone for Eng­land but for the in­juries that wrecked his ca­reer.

“He was a player of tremen­dous tal­ent,” said Graeme Souness, un­der whom Dunn en­joyed his best years at Black­burn. “He had all the qual­i­ties re­quired to play at the high­est level. Even con­sid­er­ing the in­juries,how he didn’t is a mys­tery to me.”

As a young­ster, Dunn was ob­sessed with Paul Gas­coigne, watch­ing his VHS copy of the Spurs mav­er­ick’s life story ev­ery day, twice a day, “for about a year”.

And he wore that in­flu­ence on his sleeve – at his peak, Dunn had the same bar­rel chest, the same glid­ing gait; even the same imp­ish sense of mis­chief.

Yet if Gazza fed the young Lan­cas­trian’s dreams, it was his grand­fa­ther – David – who was the true in­spi­ra­tion.

“He made me prac­tice,” Dunn re­called ear­lier this year.“And he wouldn’t let me join a team un­til I could kick with my left foot. He hates peo­ple who can’t use both feet and said that I’d be show­ing him up.”

Im­pact

Dunn joined Rovers at the age of eight and made his de­but ten years later. It didn’t last long – in­tro­duced in the 70th minute, he was subbed back off again af­ter 81 thanks to a red card for Swedish star Martin Dahlin.

But it wouldn’t be long be­fore he was mak­ing a more mean­ing­ful im­pact, spear­head­ing a young team that in­cluded the likes of Matt Jansen and Damien Duff.

Dunn scored 18 goals in 52 games as Black­burn were pro­moted to the Premier League in 2001, then bagged 16 over the course of two Premier League sea­sons to win his soli­tary Eng­land cap.

“He is so smooth in his move­ment and on the ball,” said for­mer team-mate Ryan Nel­son. “He is Span­ish in the way he plays. He’s like an Ini­esta and there are not many English­men like that.When he is on the field and play­ing con­sis­tently, there is no bet­ter player to watch.”

So why just one cap? On the one hand, it was Dunn’s mis­for­tune to emerge at a time when Frank Lam­pard, Steven Ger­rard and Paul Sc­holes were vy­ing for two slots in mid­field.

On the other, Dunn ac­quired a rep­u­ta­tion as a play­boy who too of­ten burned the can­dle at both ends – an ac­cu­sa­tion he still re­jects.

“I was just con­scious of not seem­ing big time and one thing I didn’t want to do was lose touch with the peo­ple I grew up with,” he told FourFourTwo in 2013. “Yes, I went out with friends. But I got ac­cused of go­ing out more than oth­ers and that was never the case. A lot of it was just ex­ag­ger­a­tion. I’d be out for a meal and it would get re­ported I’d been clubbing.”

The real prob­lem, though, was in­juries. Ham­strings, liga- ments, car­ti­lage – ev­ery­thing failed him and, af­ter a £5.5m move to Birm­ing­ham in 2003, Dunn made just 58 ap­pear­ances in four sea­sons.

“It was a poor re­turn on their in­vest­ment,” ad­mits Dunn, who turned down an ap­proach from Chelsea – newly minted un­der Ro­man Abramovich – to hon­our a prom­ise to join Blues gaffer Steve Bruce.

Ag­ile

“Steve was fan­tas­tic, but it just got to a point where he was as frus­trated as I was. I hon­estly thought about quit­ting half a dozen times at Birm­ing­ham be­cause of the in­juries.”

By the time he re­turned to Black­burn in 2006 – a yard slower and a frac­tion less mo­bile – his Eng­land dreams were dead. What re­mained, how­ever, was an ag­ile football brain and an in­fec­tious per­son­al­ity that could gal­vanise any dress­ing room.

“He didn’t of­ten come in mis­er­able,” said Al­lardyce. “When you talk about ban­ter, David was al­ways start­ing it. He’d be in for a bit of mickey tak­ing and all in good hu­mour.

“He was one of those play­ers whom it was good to have in the dress­ing room when things weren’t go­ing well. He knew when to have a laugh, when to get se­ri­ous. And when the pres­sure was on, he’d be the one to raise spir­its and lighten the mood.”

And there were plenty of dark days. The Venky’s takeover and shock sack­ing of Al­lardyce in 2010; rel­e­ga­tion from the Premier League in 2012; the pa­rade of five-minute man­agers that turned Black­burn into a laugh­ing stock; and three sea­sons of Cham­pi­onship medi­ocrity.

Yet Dunn stayed loyal, tak­ing his Black­burn tally to 59 goals in 365 ap­pear­ances be­fore leav­ing to join League One Old­ham in July. Now the 35year-old has been handed the chance to man­age the Lat­ics – and, ac­cord­ing to one for­mer Black­burn team-mate, he has all the cre­den­tials.

“David put so much time and ef­fort into me,” said Rovers young­ster John O’Sul­li­van.“He worked one-on-one and came and watched me loads of times when I was out on loan at Ac­cring­ton.

“Even in his fi­nal days at the club,he was pulling me aside in train­ing to help me im­prove and give me point­ers. He didn’t have to do that, but that’s the type of guy he is. He’ll make a bril­liant coach.”

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