Football: The Terminator who walks on dark side

FAN'S EYE VIEW: Julian Dicks
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The Independent Online
THE BEST English left-back in the Premiership will not be running out today as a new season emerges blinking into the sunshine.

His club's most accomplished penalty-taker, the possessor of a thunderbolt shot and a dribbler who can pass players with an ease that belies his bulldog build.

Chances are Julian Dicks will not be in West Ham's side at Hillsborough today as he has yet to fully recover from a debilitating knee injury. His comeback is imminent, but there is a feeling that Dicks' greatest days as a Hammer may be behind him. He has been out of the game now for 18 months and, as he admits, after eight major operations on his left knee one bad tackle could end his career. But then Dicksie was always a battler despite having a softie's name.

Julian. A breeder of bull terriers, the rough-house Bristolian who became the scourge of the red-tops when six of his studs connected with the skull of an opposing forward (he swore on his daughters' life that he didn't do it on purpose, and, of course, we believed him). The Terminator, a Harley-riding hero who, thanks to sublime skills allied to ferociously competitive spirit (sent off nine times), he became the footballing soul of Upton Park. At last the pretty, pretty football of the Academy had a dark side not seen since Billy Bonds patrolled the park as Trevor Brooking's on-field minder. Julian the rebel kicked the hell out of one manager (Lou Macari) in training and caused another (Bonds) to age before our eyes. Some of us reckon Harry Redknapp's twitch is the result of dealing with Dicksie. Two cans of cola before kick-off and a puff of a cigarette when the mood took him.

Even when Dicks left for Liverpool we forgave him. After all, we were crap then and it was, we reasoned, a way of finally getting into the England squad. And we loved him all the more for coming back.

That he never featured in Glenn Hoddle's plans was an enduring source of bafflement. Here was a gifted, buccaneering left-back whose England claims were being denied by his close-cropped hairstyle. John Gorman, Hoddle's sidekick, had hinted a more suitably hirsute Dicks would be granted entrance to the man of faith's inner sanctum. Dicks - in a remarkable act of prescience - declared that he had no interest in playing for England.

Which just about summed up Dicks: headstrong, truculent, a possessor of principles many would consider perverse.

And yet Dicks now talks of swapping the Irons for irons of a golfing kind as he considers an alternative career. He is paying the man who coached Colin Montgomerie pounds 75 an hour to help him in his quest to become a scratch player.

Beware the cosy clubhouses of Essex: The Terminator cometh, bearing a Big Bertha.