Dunn still wild about Rovers

Birmingham's star turn recalls the pain of his Blackburn parting and dreams of England
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The Independent Football

There are so many Birmingham City players injured at present that Sky Sports' viewing figures for this afternoon's game away to Chelsea will receive a significant boost. Among the audience will be the most expensive acquisition in the club's history, David Dunn, who is not usually one for watching football on television, preferring the real thing at his former home, Ewood Park, or old schoolboy haunts like Preston and Accrington Stanley. Frustrated by a hamstring strain, he will make an exception by switching on this afternoon, unless his remaining team-mates are suffering too much of a hiding, in which case "it might be EastEnders Omnibus".

Dunn, 24, might be expected to be more of a Coronation Street or possibly an Emmerdale man. A native of Blackburn and devotee of the local Rovers from the age of eight, he suddenly found himself in conflict with Graeme Souness a year ago, accused by the manager of "taking his eye off the ball" after his relationship with Emmerdale actress Sammy Winward made the gossip columns. Dunn remains bewildered by the accusations and claims to have received no coherent explanation.

He is still with Sammy, but no longer with Souey, who sold him to Birmingham last July for £5.5m. It clearly hurt. "I hate to go on about Blackburn and what happened there," he says, before doing so with some feeling: "It was a hard pill to swallow. He had his opinion and I had mine. I'm not naïve enough to think that doesn't happen in football. I've got broad enough shoulders to take it and I've just got to get on with it. But I was quite hurt by what a lot of people said when I left. Obviously I was local and there was quite a bit of jealousy there from a small minority of supporters. You seem to get a minority everywhere who take a dislike to various people, but I was hurt by some of the things they said. I'll always be a Blackburn fan and it'll always be a special place for me. I thought they would have stuck by me a little bit more than they did."

The potential for further soap operatics increased as his new club were drawn to play his former one in the FA Cup a month after losing 4-0 at home to them in the Premiership. Dunn got even instead of angry when the result was exactly reversed in a transformation illustrating the inconsistency that has blighted both teams.

"The first game was absolute crap and I got a lot of stick as well from people back home, who seemed to rub salt in the wounds. To be honest there wasn't much between the sides until the last 25 minutes, when they scored four goals. The second one, I absolutely loved it, and they didn't have too much to say."

Now there is all sorts of talk about who will do what to whom on the final day of the campaign, when the return League fixture is played at Ewood. On current form, the two clubs might be some distance apart, Souness having lost the other significant component of his midfield shortly after Dunn's departure, when Chelsea insisted on paying whatever it took to secure the services of Damien Duff. A double diamond lost, you might say, which Blackburn have been utterly unable to replace.

Dunn's annoyance at the injury picked up in training late last week is compounded by being prevented from crossing swords today with the other DD, the old mucker he had played alongside since the little Irish sprite was brought over from Dublin as a young teenager. "Duffer's very similar to me, very much a sort of home-boy with a very close family. When Chelsea and London were mentioned I didn't know if he'd go, but I've spoken to him a couple of times since we both left and he seems to be enjoying it. I saw that he came back in midweek and we'll just have to hope he doesn't get too much of the ball."

Sadly for Birmingham, the WestEnders appear to be finding their feet again after stumbling like drunken men through the holiday period. Successive 4-0 victories against Leicester and Watford may not have diminished Chelsea's appetite for acquiring new players, but there is no good time to take them on with a crop of absentees as long as the cast-list of a soap compilation.

Dunn believes that the contrast in depth of talent is, as much as anything, what makes the Premiership's big three clubs stand out from the evenly matched majority: "The last couple of weeks Chelsea had a tough time of it, but they've got the players to turn it round. The thing with us is if we get injuries, we haven't got the depth in our squad that the so-called bigger clubs have. But if we can have a second half of the season like we had first, we could be up there. It's almost everyone that can claim those other European spots."

Staying free of injury is important to Dunn's personal ambitions of reclaiming the England place he held for precisely 45 minutes in a friendly at home to Portugal 16 months ago. Oddly, he was then passed over for the following game in favour of a Blackburn team-mate, David Thompson, who did not get on the pitch at all and has never done since. Sven moves in a mysterious way. Now Dunn, when fit, is playing in the left-midfield position that has given Eriksson such trouble - but is not counting chickens, or caps.

"The left side seems to be a bit of a problem," he adds. "I've just got to do it a bit more consistently than I have. Obviously the manager's called me up before, so maybe he thinks there's something there. I'm just happy to enjoy my football at the moment. Football is one of those games that changes so quickly you have to enjoy it while you can, because it's a roller-coaster of a career.

"If England opportunities arise I'll be over the moon, but if they don't I'll just keep my head down and keep working for the chance."