Cult Heroes: Danny "Mellow-D" Dichio

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As we move away from the gutless shambles that as Monday night in Norfolk we look forward to the visit of West Bromwich Albion to the Stadium of Light this Saturday afternoon. The divide between the gaffer and the fans seems to have widened, no thanks to Bruce’s constant, if at times "veiled" jibes at his critics through the media. Well, yet again, the big fella has an opportunity to prove his worth and hopefully show that the Stoke performance wasn’t a one off result that just papered over the cracks for a couple of weeks.

 

So as usual we bring you a player past that has represented both sides and this week we have a former striker who is the true definition of the term Cult Hero. His contribution to the SAFC cause during his time on Wearside is often understated or forgotten all together, so here is our chance to pay our respects to London born yet exotically named, courtesy of his Italian father, Daniele Dichio.

Roker Report’s  - Simon Walsh had the pleasure of speaking with Danny late last year where the forward proved he still has a lot of time for SAFC – have another read here.

Daniele Salvatore Dichio’s footballing career began as an apprentice with his boyhood club Queens Park Rangers, where he joined as an apprentice in 1991 before going professional in 1993. Danny would have to wait for his opportunity for first team football and Sir Les Ferdinand’s sale to some second rate North East side granted Dichio a chance to show what he is all about and he racked up an impressive ten goals that term. Dichio’s career was to see him move to Serie A in 1997 with Sampdoria keen on the forward. His Italian adventure didn’t last too long however and following a brief loan spell with Lecce young Daniele found himself at the Stadium of Light in 1998 for £750,000.

 

Danny couldn’t have joined Sunderland at a better time. Despite often figuring as backup to the tried and tested Quinn/Phillips strike force Danny proved himself to be a more than capable replacement when the Irishman broke down. Dichio was a scrapper, never afraid of putting in a shift for the side and chipped in with some important goals when he was called upon. His first season with the side culminated in THAT Play Off Final, a game in which as a substitute Danny could have had the final say:

 

"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 nine times out of ten I would have headed that cross but on the day I tried to volley it."

 

Like the rest of the side Danny did not dwell on the disappointment too long as Sunderland went into the following season with the bit between their teeth, their was a massive feeling of the side wanting to put right that Play Off heartbreak. Dichio played a much bigger part for Sunderland in the 1998/99 Championship winning side making 36 appearances and managing to reach double figures for his goal tally with 10 goals.

 

Sunderland’s return to the Premier League for the 1999/00 season saw Dichio again take on more of a support role for the little and large strike combination which rocked the footballing world and tormented so many defences. In his two remaining Premier League seasons with Sunderland Danny managed 27 appearances for SAFC and one goal. For whatever reason I can always remember that goal.

 

It came on New Years Eve of 2000 and Ipswich Town were the opposition. Sunderland were not at the races in the first half with a beauty of a freekick from Julio Arca levelling the score after Ipswich had taken the lead through a certain Marcus Stewart. Dichio was to enter the fray as a tactical substitution by Reid, replacing Quinn. The decision paid dividends. SAFC came out guns blazing in the second half and Danny was quickly involved smartly heading on a long ball into the path of Phillips who did what Kevin did best and slotted the ball home. Phillips was to repay the favour minutes later swinging in a cross for Danny to sidefoot home. The result was put beyond doubt late on in the game when the Swede Schwarz tapped the ball home. An impressive 4-1 home win which moved SAFC to joint second in the Premier League. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I so fondly remember this game!

 

Finding it hard to nail down a first team spot with Sunderland Dichio was allowed to move to Saturday’s opponents, initially for a loan spell, at the start of the 2001/02 season. Danny made an impressive start, scoring in his first two goals. The Midlands outfit were suitably impressed with their new forward that they stumped up £1.25m to make the deal a permanent one by November of that season. His luck with helping new sides to promotion continued as his goals helped fire the Baggies into the top flight with the Londoner finishing the season as top scorer with 11 goals.

 

However a turn of events similar to that at Sunderland saw first team football with West Brom harder to come by even after relegation back to the Championship and Danny spent time away from The Hawthorns with loan spells at Derby County and Millwall, joining the latter on a permanent deal in 2004.

 

Sunderland and Dichio’s paths were to cross again in the 2003/04 FA Cup Semi Final when he was part of the Millwall team which secured a place in the Final at the expense of The Black Cats. However Danny was to miss out on another Wembley appearance due to suspension.

 

2007 was to see the towering centre forward embark on one last footballing adventure as he joined newly formed MLS side Toronto FC. Over his three season playing career with the side he found the net 14 times including the club’s first ever goal. It would be fair to say that before Dichio’s transfer the side were somewhat of the whipping boys for the league but with 24 minutes on the clock in Danny’s second game a legend was born when the Londoner found the net. Since then the Toronto FC fans mark this occasion by singing his name during the 24th minute of every game. See below video evidence!

 

WARNING: This chant is too catchy for most human beings, I had it stuck in my head for most of the day having heard it!

 

Toronto FC Danny Dichio Chant At Columbus March 29 2008 (via RedRumTFC)

Danny can be found on twitter - @DannyDichio - so give the big fella a follow and leave your favourite goals, moments etc in the comments below!

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