Injuries were not the reason I won only one England cap, says Blackburn Rovers star David Dunn (From This Is Lancashire)
Injuries were not the reason I won only one England cap, says Blackburn Rovers star David Dunn
WOULD David Dunn have won more than one solitary cap for England had it not been for injuries?
Ask supporters who saw him in his prime or players who played with him or against him when he was at his swashbuckling best and nine times out of 10 and the answer would be an emphatic yes.
Dunn grew up alongside current England captain Steven Gerrard and considered Frank Lampard, who is also part of Three Lions squad currently competing at the World Cup in Brazil, as a contemporary.
But neither player could match the gifted Blackburn Rovers midfielder in full flow.
With a carefree abandon Dunn could – and still can, albeit more sporadically – leave a defender trailing in his wake with a drop of the shoulder here or a sharp turn there.
Little wonder that there were comparisons between Dunn and the great Paul Gascoigne, the player he idolised as a boy in Great Harwood.
But like Gazza there is the belief that Dunn has never fulfilled his potential, that it was the long spells he spent in the treatment room that prevented him from getting anywhere near his hero’s total of 57 England caps.
The man himself, however, disagrees.
“People can put it down to injuries but I tend to be more harsh on myself and I put it down to the fact that the likes of Steve and Frank had something I didn’t and that’s why they progressed,” said Dunn, now 34 and in talks with Rovers over a new contract that would take him into a 14th season with his hometown club.
“Me and Steve go back to when we were 11-12-year-olds – we had some very good battles – and I played with Frank.
“In terms of raw, natural ability I was probably every bit as good as them but I didn’t have something else, something they obviously had.
“If I had my time again I would maybe tweak a few things and work on other areas of my game to make me more like them.
“But I try not to have regrets. They are fantastic players who deserve everything they get.
“One thing I would say is that when I was breaking through into the England squad there were proper players I had to get in front of – it was nigh on impossible!
“Gerrard, Lamps (Lampard), Becks (David Beckham), Butty (Nicky Butt), Scholesy (Paul Scholes) – you are talking top, top, world class players.
“It was difficult to wedge them.”
But Dunn, who made 22 appearances and scored three goals for England U21s, did break through into the full Three Lions squad.
He made his senior international debut in a friendly with Portugal at Villa Park in September 2002 when he came on as a half-time substitute for old sparring partner Gerrard.
It would be Dunn’s sole appearance for the senior England team.
But it was one he will treasure forever given what it means to his granddad David, one of the biggest influences on his career.
“I always wanted to play for my country, it is every young lad’s dream,” said Dunn, who has scored 59 goals in 366 appearances for Rovers across two spells split by a stint at Birmingham City.
“When I was growing up my granddad always said he could die a happy man once I had played for England. Well one thing is for sure, he can do that because I did it.
“Without his help I would never have got there in the first place.”
Dunn’s full England debut may have come earlier – and at a World Cup.
He was put on the standby list for the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea and at one stage got word he was set to be parachuted into the squad by then Three Lions boss Sven-Goran Eriksson.
The wife of Trevor Sinclair, who had taken the place of Danny Murphy after the future Rovers midfielder broke his foot, was pregnant and there was a doubt over her husband’s participation at the World Cup.
“There was a rumour I was going to get out at the last minute,” remembers Dunn.
“But obviously Trevor went to the World Cup in the end. He couldn’t turn that chance down and as it turned out he proved to be one of England’s better players.
“I would have loved to have played at a World Cup.
“But I enjoyed my time with England all the same, in all the age groups and then with the full side as well.”
Dunn will be watching England throughout the World Cup in Brazil hoping that Roy Hodgson – the man who gave him his professional debut as an 18-year-old with Rovers – can guide the country to success.
“Roy is clued-up and knows a player – he gave me my debut after all,” joked Dunn, whose unforgettable professional debut lasted just 11 minutes as he was sacrificed shortly after coming on after Martin Dahlin was sent off in a 0-0 draw at Everton in September 1998.
Dunn’s full debut would come two months later in a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool, for whom a certain Steven Gerrard came on to make his first appearance in senior football.
“But in all seriousness Roy is a real top coach,” added Dunn.
“He was a real coach and a lot different to what we were used to – he was, I would say, a bit more continental in his approach.
“He was very hands on and, even though he was a manager, he liked to be out there coaching.
“He was very good at that.”
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