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Monday 21 August 2017

Hard way is the only way for Dunne

New autobiography is a no-holds-barred view of life at Millwall

Millwall’s Alan Dunne (right) battles with Everton’s Kevin Kilbaneduring the FA Cup third round replay at Goodison Park in 2008.,
Millwall’s Alan Dunne (right) battles with Everton’s Kevin Kilbaneduring the FA Cup third round replay at Goodison Park in 2008.,
“Dunne It the Hard Way” by Alan Dunne (left) with Chris Davies (right) is published by Pitch Publishing www.pitchpublushing.co.uk.

Alan Dunne is a hard man. His early life was hard, his fight for a professional career difficult and his personal life often chaotic. No wonder he decided to call his autobiography "Dunne It The Hard Way".

He is a Millwall man in every inch of his being but he was born in Dublin and the mix developed a gritty survivor who flirted with what he describes as the "dark distractions of North London" before wising up.

By his own admission, he was not gifted with great football talent and he never pulled on a shirt for Ireland at international level, one of his big regrets, but his story is no less fascinating for the absence of tales of high glory.

His achievements are local and intimate and shared with fans he grew to love after a tricky start.

Honest

It's a remarkably honest book and he doesn't spare himself. He writes movingly about the death of his mother at a young age and a troubled relationship with his family before shining a light on what it was like to spend 23 years at a club with the worst reputation in the game.

After finally leaving Millwall, his home from home for so long, last summer and in circumstances which reaffirm the certainty that there is little or no sentiment in football, he is now playing with Orient and taking his first tentative steps along a road which could eventually lead to management.

Dunne's "dark distractions" were the obvious ones and while he was fighting through under-age football, he fell in with bad company.

Drugs were everywhere in North London and usually in the same place where a young, impressionable kid might find his first pint.

"It's in every bar, every club. My father always told me that you are the people you associate with and it took me a long time to realise he was right."

Dunne's father took action when he saw that his son was heading down a very bad path indeed and asked Millwall to find him digs away from the infamous Bemerton Estate where his family eventually landed after leaving Dublin.

He doesn't duck any issue. His reputation as a bit of a brawler with a white hot temper is accepted and he makes no bones about the fact that intimidation has always been a big part of his game.

He speaks almost casually of a drinking culture which is very much alive and well in football England and certainly dominated his early years.

On the pitch, his reputation preceded him. Sparked by the same raw hunger and anger which drove Roy Keane as a player, Dunne knew he was not blessed with enormous ability and would need to use all his resources to make it.

It was the move to Orient which give him a new insight into how he was perceived outside Millwall.

"Going to Orient you take your reputation for granted. You don't see yourself outside Millwall. I am the most sent off player in Millwall's history and it's a club associated with being quite tough," he said, a master of understatement.

"I've always tried to dominate my opponent. Some of the big name stars, I've always tried to use mind games knowing that I'm not as good as them.

"Football is a small world and the word gets out. 'You don't want to play against him'.

"I do things that probably are not good to publicise but it helps me with my game and playing against players who are quicker than me. Players seem to know about me in that way," he grinned.

"When I went to Orient they didn't know what to make of me. Off the field I'm as nice as anybody but on the field I can be ruthless.

"There is a line. I would never go out to intentionally hurt someone or end a career. I'm more about mind games. I've had some nasty tackles but they were not leg-breakers. I'm not that type of player.

"I will do anything I can to win a football game. I wouldn't cheat but I'd do anything I can get away with.

"If you tell a player the next time he touches the ball you're going to break him in half, some will look at you and think you're joking.

"But if you can get a tackle in in the first five minutes, they know you're not messing about. They will have that fear, they will think 'he's not messing about'.

"You can say it but you have to make eye contact and make out to him that the next time you touch that ball I'm going to smash you, I'm going to really go through you.

"So the next time they get on the ball, they lose a little bit of their game."

Reality

In the context of the current debate about contact sports in schools, this is talk which belongs in the dark ages but it is the reality on pitches across these islands every weekend.

Anyone who has ever kicked a ball in anger knows that and in this way, football is a true reflection of life.

It won't change either and the notion that kids should be cocooned from contact until they are old enough to make up their minds for themselves is laughable.

Dunne has experienced more knocks and bruises than most and it has made him a better man.

He is happily married, financially secure and not far from a UEFA A Licence, which allows him to continue his adventure in the game and, who knows, to places he cannot yet imagine.

He's a leader, as we know from his spell as Millwall captain, and you leave his company with the impression that this is a smart, street-wise lad with all the equipment needed to make it as a manager - maybe even a top manager.

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