Dublin reveals his two big career regrets
Ex-Manchester United striker Dion Dublin has spoken about the two big regrets he has from his time in football – although one of them was said in jest.
The man who scored the Reds' first-ever winning goal in the Premier League, a late strike at Southampton in 1992, took part in our Group Chat with host Stewart Gardner and former players Ben Thornley, Wes Brown, David May and Danny Webber.
The conversation got around to Dublin's career at Old Trafford, which had started promisingly before an unfortunate leg break against Crystal Palace. But by the time he returned, Eric Cantona had arrived and United were on course for years of glory. That incident clearly still nags at the centre-forward – who could also play in defence – even though he went on to have a fine career at the top level.
At one of his clubs, Aston Villa, he was sent off for a spat with former Class of '92 member Robbie Savage, during a particularly feisty Birmingham derby. It remains another incident still on his mind!
MUTV Group Chat: Dion Dublin dials in! Video
Check out what was said during the chat:
“You scored that first winner at Southampton but then broke your leg. Do you ever look back and think what might have been?
“Stew, stop it. All the time. All the time, genuinely. People say: 'Any regrets?' and I think of one regret and then another one as well. The first one is I wish I'd nutted Robbie Savage a bit harder! The main regret is I'd liked to have known how I'd have got on at United, for six or seven years. I look at Kanchelskis, Benji, Sharpey, Giggsy – all those wingers out there. I played with Benji, mainly in the Reserves at United, and used to love people crossing the ball. I missed out on all those amazing players. Do you know what I mean? I had a taste of it but it was obviously cut short through injury. It's the one thing in my career – was I good enough to stay there for five or six years? I will never know, but the players around me would make me better. It would have been nice. One of the things you touched upon there, the first goal, was at Southampton, away at The Dell, was anybody else involved? Benji – were you on the bench?”
“Not that one, no.”
“No, I was at school, Dion.”
“See you later. Browny, you?”
“Still at school, just.”
“Kids nowadays, Stew.”
“I trained the Monday and Tuesday but had Wednesday off. Then Thursday and Friday and Saturday, and the boys flew on Sunday to play the game on Monday night. To cut a long story short, I missed the flight on the Sunday. The gaffer said meet up on Sunday afternoon, to fly to Southampton, so where did I go? To the ground and waited at the ground for an hour, two hours and nobody goes to the ground. Nobody told me but everyone went to the Four Seasons hotel on the M56. So I was waiting and waiting in my Vauxhall Calibra – two litre. Absolutely sharp as you like. The gaffer said get the next flight down, so I went down Monday morning and got dog's abuse from the lads. Everybody threw their bread rolls at me when I came through the door! I got dog's abuse but started the game and obviously got the goal. When it came to leaving with Sir Alex, I said it was time for me to leave. He said I don't really want you to leave because, back then, the three-foreigners rule was in Europe and he said I want you to stay to play in the European games. I said I want to stay gaffer too but I ain't going to play and would like to leave. He said no problem at all. He was great to me. When I was in my cast, the lads were off playing European football and I remember one trip to Moscow, when he said do you want to come along? Here are two seats on the plane if you want to come and be part of the team. I wanted to stay at home, though, and do my rehab and get back as quickly as I could. The club was good to me. Although it was a small part of my career, it's on my CV. Check it out.”
“Is your gut instinct that you would have made it if things had been different?”
“I'd have been okay if they hadn't signed Cantona! [laughs] I break my leg and it's why I consider myself the catalyst to Manchester United's success. If I don't break my leg, Manchester United do nothing without me! Sign Cantona, amazing. I'd like to have had a couple of years, just to test myself. When the likes of Webs, Browny, Maysie turned up, everything just got better and the squad of players got stronger and United became this juggernaut. Obviously, I'd left by then but I would have loved to be part of the growing process, the dominant process, and nobody would get near us. It was incredible to watch the team in '92, with Parks, Pally, Bruce and Denis, and Schmeichel, with that as a backbone, just incredible to watch the dominance from the bench.”
“Obviously, you've all had injuries at some part of your career. Do you ever look back on that?”
“Yeah, you're bound to do that. I was pretty much the same as Dion really, but I always try to look at it with fondness that I was at Manchester United, which nobody can take away from you. With the way the club has treated me, much the same as Dion, as Sir Alex Ferguson was magnificent and openly very, very sorry about what happened to me. When the time came to leave, I went with his best wishes and we've remained fairly close ever since. I can't really ask for any more.”
“Yep, it's never nice. In the treatment room, day in and day out, watching the lads training. It was probably worse at The Cliff as the medical room there, the lads used to train underneath. You sat there watching and were eager to get back out. Carrington is a bit different and the facilities changed but there is nothing worse than being injured as a footballer. Absolutely, you feel helpless, as though you've not contributed to anything in the season. It's tough and you have to have certain mental resilience because you can certainly go under.”
“I wouldn't change anything but there were one or two things, where I've done it myself. It sounds really stupid but I can see the ball and nothing is happening on the sidelines, but I've been me and absolutely dived in and broken my ankle. There were one or two things where I didn't need to do it. But, looking at it, I wouldn't changed it. It sorts your head out in other ways as well.”
“Injuries were my biggest problem, to be honest. By the time I left United, I probably had six ops so that was it. I was starting to get going, get injured, get going, get injured. It's probably the story as even my last game for United at Altrincham, I played and broke my leg. I literally went straight from the stadium to hospital and, fortunately, my uncle was a surgeon and he called his best mate and he did the surgery. He came out of bed at 2am and did the op by 5am. The phone next to the bed was ringing and it was the boss. He rang me and said: 'Oh my God, you've been so unlucky. Don't worry, we'll get you sorted.' At that point, in February or March, I'd been offered a three-year contract to stay but I was in a funny place. I'd been on loan at Watford and done okay but would just get going and get slapped. I'd had 14 ops by the end of my career and your body feels it. Injuries are horrible and particularly when you're going full throttle. You can plan but the mental side is the most important, coming back from a cruciate or broken leg and still going to play football. You get to 30 and, by the end of it, each one has chipped away from you and taken the edge off you. When speed was a big part of my game, you learn to manage yourself. Injuries are part and parcel and you come out the back-end a stronger person for it.”
“What a lot of fans and punters don't know about footballers, although we had the best job in the world – don't get me wrong, if you love football it's the best job, full stop – but I'd pretty much say 100 per cent of footballers play with injuries. There is always something wrong with a player. I can speak for the lads on screen, when you go and play football, there's a niggle or something. A hematoma or ligament damage. We played with so many injuries throughout our career, pain-killing tablets and jabs, just to get out there. People don't realise and the body has taken an absolute hammering. Like Browny said, tackles are an instinct thing and that happens sometimes when you really shouldn't do it. But it's on top of the injuries, Benji played with his knee, and these are injuries that all of us have.”
“I used to take anti-inflamms every day of the week, just to go out for an hour or two and feel okay. I'd have one the night before, then one before the game and then two pain-killers just to get through the game. What's that doing to you? My shoulders would dislocate. I remember playing certain games and my shoulder would dislocate but I didn't want people to know I had a problem and all that kind of thing. I used to put my shoulder back in on the pitch and get on with it. Stuff like that. When I went to sign for Portsmouth, I thought I'd not get through the medical as I strapped my shoulders every day and my shoulders would bleed when I took it off. I thought: how am I getting through the medical? But you find ways and I was holding the strap in place and thinking I'll pull through the medical. When they said the shoulder was okay, I was buzzing as I was here to play, but there was pain all the time.”
“Our dressing room is likes a Boots pharmacy before the [Legends] games we have now, Danny!”
“Nobody has shin-pads any more, we have pain-killers!”
“You're still our saviour, Dan!”
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