Dean Windass: 'I told a story from the heart. I've lost a few family members from it. That's just the way it is'
Hull's Dean Windass is uncompromising on the page and the pitch. Today at Wembley he will write another chapter. Michael Walker spoke to him
Saturday 24 May 2008
Dean Windass no longer speaks to the family into which he was born. When you see him at Wembley this afternoon – proud in his Hull City No 9 jersey, waving to his wife and sons in the stands or, pugnacious as ever at 39, withstanding a tackle from behind and delivering a surprisingly deft lay-off – it will be worth considering the other Dean Windass, the one you do not see.
That is the one from a fractured home in Hull's Gipsyville area, the one who packed peas at the local Birds Eye factory, who carried hods on building sites, who was released by Hull as a teenager and who could not then make it at Cambridge United. The one who put all of this and more in a book that outraged his siblings and parents.
"Someone asked me to do it," Windass said of his autobiography, Deano: From Gipsyville to the Premiership. "When I did it the response I got was phenomenal. I told a story from the heart and was honest. If people don't like it, and don't like me, then fair enough. I said it as it is. I've lost a few family members from it but that's just the way it is. I've got my own family now, my wife and kids to look after."
Do landmark life and career occasions such as today's prompt thoughts of reconciliation?
"I don't know, I don't know. It's up to them. I'm not bothered what people think. I don't speak to any of them anymore. I've got my wife and kids and that's all I concentrate on. That's life. This is my story. You make your choices in life and I'm running out at Wembley. It will be the proudest day of my life."
Windass (not an easy surname for a child, one imagines) was standing with his back to the wall of the old Northern Foods sports club that is now Hull City's training ground.
The surroundings do not scream "Premier League", but then Hull City are what they are, an underachieving football club in a rugby league town, a club hoping to reach the top flight for the first time in its 104-year history today. Equally, Windass is what he is – a blunt northern man who expects neither gifts nor sympathy.
"When I was on the building site and at Birds Eye it was tough times, tough times," he said. "But I always believed I was good enough. It got to the stage where I went on trial at places like Cambridge and York and Sunderland, but they never gave me a second glance. I thought: 'Please someone, just give me a chance.'
"I've been given that chance and I've never looked back since. I worked out that nothing was given to me on a plate and I've worked hard every day of my life. Now here I am reaping my rewards, playing for Hull City at Wembley in the last game of the season."
Happily for Windass, his career has come full circle. At 18 he was released by Brian Horton – who is now back at Hull as assistant to the manager, Phil Brown – and had to go to a local club, North Ferriby United, before Terry Dolan spotted him and brought him back to Boothferry Park at 22. A fan-pleasing 57 goals flowed before Roy Aitken took him to Aberdeen where, infamously, he once received three red cards in a single match. A heavy drinker from his youth, Aberdeen also brought bed-wetting and a realisation that his life had to change. Punching walls when drunk was how he got rid of his frustration. His wife recommended a sports therapist. It worked.
A season at Oxford United followed before Windass entered the Premiership with Bradford City. His goals kept them up.
Middlesbrough were attracted but Windass could not hold down a place and went to Sheffield, both Wednesday and United, on loan. Eventually he signed for United but Neil Warnock omitted him from the side beaten by Wolves in the 2003 play-off final.
Back to Bradford he went, for a further 60 goals in 142 appearances – he is the club's all-time third top scorer. But then, 18 months ago, after being sent off against Bournemouth, Windass received death threats from some Bradford fans. It was a subject he swerved around nimbly this week, but it must have played some part in him returning to Hull in January 2007.
In 15 starts for Hull that season he scored eight goals, which meant he finished as both Hull's and Bradford's top scorer. The most telling goal was the one at Cardiff that kept Hull up on the penultimate Saturday, effectively relegating Leeds in the process.
This season has brought 14 goals, including one against Watford in the first leg of the play-off semi-final. The plan is to play past 40 – his birthday is 1 April – and then to go into management. He calls it "the next chapter".
It is sure to be a forthright read – his weight is the only topic he is unwilling to discuss. Dean Windass does not travel light.
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