Dublin, a gentleman and a player, ready to bow out with style

He apologises for his time being slightly more limited than it would have been in his prime. A body that turns 39 on Tuesday week requires a rather longer preparation for training and matches than it did in the past, and that is even before he starts his warm-up routine.

You have this image of Norwich City's physiotherapists working on him like mechanics toiling lovingly over a veteran motor car. It also explains why the Championship's final game of the season will be his last, after more than 700 games and well over 200 goals. "That's why I'm not going to do another year," says Dion Dublin with a wry smile. "The Norwich fans have been absolutely superb to me. They, and the players, all wanted me to stay on, but these old legs can't take it."

If ever there was a player who can retire exuding consummate pride in what he has achieved it is the Leicester-born striker, and occasional centre-half, whose refusal to accept rejection at this same club 22 years ago after playing just four reserve games propelled him to a career which embraced, among others, Manchester United, Coventry City, Aston Villa and Celtic, before his return here in September 2006.

He had offered few clues of what was to follow when he was released by Norwich in 1988. "I never accepted I wouldn't make it, but also I never thought I'd make it to the top flight, and not to Manchester United," Dublin says. "I just thought, 'If I can get a career out of the game at any level, I'll be happy'. But I scored a few goals [73 in total for Cambridge, to be precise] and people noticed, and I was catapulted up." Those "people" significantly included Sir Alex Ferguson, who signed him for£1 million. Dublin stayed at Old Trafford for two years, but a broken leg brought a premature end to his time there.

"When my injury came along, they bought King Cantona – so there was no way back into the side. I had to hold my hands up and say, 'You're absolutely superb, Eric, you carry on, you do what you've got to do and I'll try and find work elsewhere'.

"Just think of it: Cantona, Mark Hughes, Brian McClair, Paul Scholes – and then it was Dion Dublin. To get into the side, I needed two or three to be playing useless or injured. I thought it was time to move on."

He departed, for Coventry next, as a championship-winning player. "I only played in seven games of the 1992-93 season, when United won the first Premier League title, before I broke my leg.

"But Sir Alex, being the manager he is, said, 'Listen, Dion, if you hadn't broken your leg, you'd have played in so many more games', and he had an extra memento, a miniature replica of the trophy, made for me, with my name on."

An English player could make that spectacular leap in class from the United of Cambridge to that of Manchester back then. Not now? "That's a great point," he agrees when we speak at Norwich's Colney training ground, where the Canaries were preparing for today's bi-seasonal dust-up with Ipswich. "For a player to go from what was, with due respect, a very small club to the biggest club in the world... well, I don't think that will ever happen again. The clubs these days need, and want, instant success. They think the way to do it is to buy ready-made quality."

There was some speculation that when Peter Grant departed Carrow Road early in the season, Dublin could be fast-tracked into management. He dismisses the notion. "Some people did put my name forward, but I was never going to go for the job. Of course, if they had offered it to me I'd have had to consider it carefully, but it never happened. Coaching or management is not something I'd go into through choice." His next career move is into the media. He will work for Sky, among others.

You can hardly accuse him of being demob-happy. His goal last Saturday helped win the points against Burnley and, in doing so, considerably eased Norwich's relegation concerns.

They adore him at Carrow Road. Even the home faithful at Ashton Gate applauded him off when he was substituted in Norwich's game there recently. "I feel, and hope, that people recognise I've gone about my business in the right way. But that was a nice surprise."

It would be an even bigger one if he receives a similar farewell at Portman Road today. But just maybe the home faithful will briefly cease hostilities to offer due appreciation to a fine ambassador of the game.

Life and Times

Born: 22 April 1969, Leicester.

Vital stats: 6ft 2in, 12st 4lb.

Position: Centre-half/striker.

Early doors: Norwich City, 1985-88.

Club career: 1988-current, Cambridge Utd (187 appearances, 68 League goals – promoted and FA Cup quarter-finalists 1990, '91); Manchester Utd (16, 3); Coventry City (171, 72); Aston Villa (178, 57 – FA Cup finalists 2000); Millwall (5, 2); Leicester City (65, 6); Celtic (12, 2); Norwich (75, 16).

England: Four caps (1998).

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
News
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style