When I asked Danny Dichio for an interview, I never actually expected anything back. You know footballers, always too busy for the fans. Well let me tell you Danny breaks the mould. Danny's hung up his boots after becoming a legend in Toronto playing for Toronto FC in the MLS, but still has a lot of time for Sunderland. Here's how things went...
It was an action packed few years for you at SAFC, the lows of the Play-Off Final defeat followed by promotion and two well placed Premiership finishes. How do you look back on your time with us?
Danny: I have great memories of my time at Sunderland and that's why i still have a real interest in all the developments and going on's at the club. My 2 son's were born up in Durham, so are both Mackems and we made some real good friends up in the North East. The people up there are very genuine people and love their football. Playing in the Stadium of Light in front of 40,000+ was always a buzz!
The bounce back from the Play-Off defeat of course was a record-breaking promotion season, with one of our best teams in recent history. What was it about that team that made them so great?
Danny: The play-off defeat was very hard! Especially for myself and Micky Gray. Micky had missed the penalty in the Shoot-out, but I had missed an even better chance in extra-time to put the crazy game to bed. I still think about that chance now and 9 times out of 10 I would have headed that cross, but on the day I tried to volley it. It was a huge error and one I wish I would have taken, as Micky would not have had to go through all that personal pain, which hit him harder because it was his boyhood team. Peter Reid & Bobby Saxton were devastated after the game , but they were the catalyst for what we was going to do the next year. On the way home after the play-off game, Reidy stopped the team-bus somewhere in the Midlands and ordered everyone off into this tiny little pub. He then gave us a pep talk into what we was going to achieve with this team next year and that if he saw anyone with their head's dropped, they were gonna be kicked out the door! We had a fantastic balance on that team with depth at every position. Micky & Magic on the left were one of the best combo's I ever played with. Then Big Quinny & Super Kev up front, who were tremendous. We had a great team spirit too which Reidy had installed in the team. We always went out as a team, for lunch,, dinners,, drinks etc and the families were all very close too. You only get this at certain clubs and when it does happen you will see the benefits on the pitch.
You’ve got a bit of history when playing AGAINST Sunderland too, scoring your first Preston North End goal against us, and being part of the Millwall team who beat us in the 2003/4 FA Cup Semi-Final. Do you have extra confidence when coming up against a former team, thinking "I’ve trained with these guys and I know how to beat them"...
Danny: The FA Cup Semi Final was bittersweet for me as I had a lot of friends in both ends of the stadium. Millwall & Sunderland knew this was a one in a million chance to reach the final and the stakes were high! I've always had a knack of scoring against my old teams, I don’t know why! I did not put in any extra effort in those games, maybe your right! I probably felt more confidence in knowing my opponents better!
Your old team-mate Niall Quinn is now at the helm of SAFC, and you your self are in an ambassadorial role for Toronto FC (According to Wikipedia!). Do you think more former players should take Chairman/Executive roles in football?
Danny: Quinny is a fantastic person. He has a great relationship with the fans and people of Sunderland. Now he is in charge of the club, I think the club is heading in the right way. He was a very clever person who knew his stuff off the pitch too, so to have him at the helm where the fans know he's got the club's best interests at heart is a great thing
Do you get to watch many Sunderland games across the pond and what do you make of our season so far?
Danny: Yes, we have the Fox Soccer Channel and also have ESPN Soccer which shows about 3 or 4 live games every week. I like the way the team are playing at the moment as they are a real threat going forward, and seem to be a little stronger at the back. I hope the team have learned from their mistakes last year when they had such a great start and then nearly finished in the relegation zone.
SAFC just missed out on a European place when you were with us, do you think we can get over the line this year?
Danny: I think a lot of teams in the top half have started to lose ground on the Big 3 (Chelsea, Man U, Arsenal). You have the likes of Spurs & Manchester City, who are steadily improving, but Liverpool, Everton & Aston Villa, who are sinking. This means teams like Bolton, Sunderland & even Blackpool are taking points in the top half now and if they can be consistent after Xmas then I see no reason why Sunderland cannot sneak in there. Their away form will be Key to this!
...and finally, have you hung up your decks, and what’s been the tune of the year?
Danny: Yes, I hung up my decks a long time ago. I still get my DJ buzz on my laptop where I have a virtual DJ program mixed with my iTunes library.
Best tune??? That’s hard... My favourite band of the year though has got to be Mumford & Sons.