Dion Dublin: I had the perfect send-off

In an extract from Tales From The City 3, Dion Dublin – who started his life in football at Norwich City – on coming back to the Club in 2006 to finish his career

It was Nigel Worthington who signed me for Norwich after five months in Scotland. It was September 2006, and I was 37. Norwich were starting their second season in the Championship after relegation from the Premier League. He said, ‘I want you to spend a couple of years with me, and bring your experience to our dressing room.’

I would like to believe that I showed by my attitude in every single game that I hadn’t gone there just to top up my pension. It’s about professional pride and not having a lazy approach. So, when I crossed that white line and went onto a pitch, I was going to work.

If that meant you and I were going to kick each other all day, I’d get on with doing it. I would do my job. If I had to go through someone to get a goal, I would do it. If I had to put my head in to stop someone scoring, well, that’s my job and I’d do it. I’ll take a broken nose if I have to take it to score. Totally committed.

That’s how I always was, and it started at Norwich, so I was so happy to get the incredible opportunity to go back there after all that had happened to me – to finish the circle. It felt like the perfect last chapter. It felt complete.

I was captain a lot of the time, and loved that. And the other senior players, guys like Hucks, totally accepted that, which was lovely. I think that in nearly all the photographs of me playing in that second spell at Norwich there is a smile on my face. It was genuinely a fabulous time for me.

Except the results. They weren’t good enough. And the man who signed me, Nigel, was sacked very soon afterwards. Peter Grant had a year in charge and then we had a great escape from the threat of relegation under Glenn Roeder. When he had taken over from Peter, Norwich had looked very likely to go down, but we rallied under Glenn, and by the time the last game of the season arrived, at Sheffield Wednesday, we were safe.

By then, I had announced that I would not be seeking to stay at Norwich or to play anywhere else. It was time to stop. My body had told me, and I had then told everyone else.

It was a tough decision to make because the club offered me another year. Players like Darel Russell and Dickson Etuhu made a point of saying they hoped I would stay. But I knew they weren’t feeling all the creaks and aches that I was feeling. I was 39 and had to get into training a lot earlier than guys like those two did, just so that my old bones would function.

The actual finish, at Hillsborough in that last game of the 2007-08 season, was definitely the finest finale I could possibly have had. As players, we all knew it was Darren Huckerby’s last game for Norwich too, but nothing had been announced and so there was no big send-off for him. That was bizarre because in any list of great Norwich City players, covering the whole time that the club has existed, Darren Huckerby would have to be in it.

But my final moments could not have been better staged. There was a full house at what is one of the game’s great old clubs, Norwich fans were filling one end, as they always did, and the manager was good enough to take me off before the end to give me my big finish. I got a standing ovation from both sets of fans, which was extraordinary. There were tears, but I held them back and tried to take it all in. Mark Clattenburg was the ref. Rather than hurry me off to allow the substitution, he joined in the applause.

I clapped all four sides of the ground, and I saw that the directors’ box had stood up and so had the away dugout. And the Norwich fans were roaring, ‘Di-on! Di-on! Di-on!’ Wow. I was blown away and I am not at all embarrassed to say that I have kept it on video.

The brand-new third volume of Tales from the City will be launched with a live event at Carrow Road on October 4 featuring Simon Lappin, Dale Gordon, Terry Allcock, Ken Brown and Tom Smith. You can get your tickets HERE.

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