Dublin Bows Out At Hillsborough
Reading through websites and chat room postings that cover both Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich City this week, it would be fair to say that there is very little antagonism between the two clubs.
Norwich supporters clearly want to enjoy the last game of their season with a good following coming up to Hillsborough. Wednesday are just a little suspicious of the 'Norwich have nothing to play for' tag. We remember that Nottingham Forest had nothing to play for in 1990 when they won 3-0 and sent us down from the top flight. But we have no axe to grind with our feathered friends from East Anglia.
If it wasn't for that little 'R' word that has been banded around both clubs for much of this season then we could all sit back, have a few beers, enjoy the sunshine (?) and watch a cracking game in a traditional stadium which will hold the biggest crowd of the Championship season.
The other thing that we would all be able to do is to celebrate the career of one of the most liked and respected footballers of the past 20 years.
I first saw Dion Dublin in a Cup game, when he was playing for Cambridge United in 1991 - he was a pain in the neck, a 21 year old with no hair who single handedly roughed up the Wednesday defense: in fact he roughed up the defense, the goalkeeper and the midfield, maybe even the manager (Big Ron). Cambridge (who at the time were in the 3rd Division) beat the Owls 4-0, Dion scored two of the goals. About a year later there were a lot of raised eyebrows when Alex Ferguson paid a million quid for Dublin, apparently Ferguson had seen him in a cup game .. no one who saw him that afternoon would be surprised if that was the occasion that impressed the Man Utd manager so much.
Sadly the big man broke his leg almost immediately when he arrived at Old Trafford and never really had the chance to establish himself. Many people expected that he would just drift away at that point back down the league ladder, but his talent, his guts and his heart really showed through. He had excellent spells with Coventry and Villa and won 4 caps for England before winding down in his mid 30s with Leicester, Celtic and finally Norwich (where he began his career as an apprentice). When Wednesday's most capped international, Nigel Worthington, signed him up for Norwich in 2006, the Northern Ireland manager also mentioned the roasting that he got in that 5th round cup tie at Cambridge.
There are very few players around who are generally and genuinely liked by the majority of supporters. The sort of player that everyone would like to have at their club, the sort of player that takes a knock and gets back up, the sort of player that sways your allegiance when you watch a game as a neutral. Maybe a Colin Bell or a Stuart Pearce or, for Wednesday, a Micky Lyons or a Mel Sterland. Dublin has always been one of those players. Always professional and honest - they talk about players players - well these are 'supporters players'.
Let us hope on Sunday that, amidst all the tension, news quickly filters through that Stoke are winning by a few and that Southampton are losing by many - at which point we might be able to relax a little and join with the Norwich supporters in giving him a good send off - maybe he'll even score a hat trick.
Which will be fine as long as the Blue and White Wizards win 4-3, with Lee Bullen of course making a surprise appearance in the dying minutes to score the winning goal!