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Interview: Danny Dichio On Life In The MLS, The Defoe-Altidore Swap & Playing Under Reidy

We caught up with former Black Cat, Danny Dichio, for a little chat recently. Aside from the regular pleasantries we asked him what he thought has been going wrong at the club; asked him to reminisce about his time on Wearside, what it's like being an integral part of an MLS franchise and obviously asked him the big question - about his views on the Altidore-Defoe swap!

SLand v Ipswich X
Danny Dichio celebrates with Kevin Phillips v Ipswich Town

RR: Hi Danny, thanks for agreeing to another interview, we thoroughly enjoyed the last one. Could you give the fans a quick summary of what's been going on in your world since our last discussion back in 2010?

DD: there’s been a lot going on for me over here in Canada since we last spoke. Apart from keeping a vested interest in Sunderland’s up and down fortunes, I am currently head coach of Toronto FC’s U21 team and also a football Analyst for Canada’s largest sports network.

RR: How are you enjoying life over in Toronto? How does it compare to your time in England?

DD: Life is very good over here in Toronto! We have beautiful hot summers with lots going on in our vibrant city and then we have the other extreme of extremely cold winters with lots of snow and various outdoor stuff to do. My family have settled really well here and call Toronto home now.

RR: The last time we spoke, one of the questions asked discussed Sunderland's chances of European qualification, believe it or not! Have you followed the club's misfortunes over the subsequent years, and how do you view our slump in form?

DD: Unfortunately I have been following the club's misfortunes over the last decade or so and it's not doing much for my health!

I really thought that the club's fortunes where changing when Sam Allardyce finally got over that sticky period early on last season. There was obviously a lot of confusion and time lost in the off-season once Big Sam made his decision, and it really feel that this hurt the club and the incoming manager David Moyes.

RR: Obviously the one shining light in the last couple of relegation scraps has been Jermain Defoe's consistent ability to find the back of the net. Did you know get to know Defoe during his time in Canada, and what do you make of his recent form?

DD: Yes, I knew Jermain before he came out to Canada as we had obviously played against each-other as well as being a London boy I would see him out and about. He performed well for us in Toronto when he played but was hampered by a couple of niggling injuries. In all honesty, I really felt that Jermain missed not only England itself, but the razzmatazz of the Premier league and all that comes with it.

It’s no surprise to me what he is doing constantly for Sunderland! He is a born goal scorer and will continue to do it until the day he retires.

RR: If we're going to talk about Defoe, then we need to discuss the makeweight in his deal: Jozy Altidore. How was that deal viewed from the other side of the Atlantic?

DD: I really think that it worked out for both parties. Both players were homesick and needed to get back to being in a place where they felt comfortable on and off the field.

We were definitely happy in replacing a top player like Defoe with a player that knew the MLS very well and was committed in being part of a new era for us at Toronto FC.

RR: Jozy managed a solitary goal in his 42 appearances on Wearside, yet has a relatively impressive record in the MLS. Why do you think he struggled in the Premier League?

DD: Some players just fit in at different clubs and some don’t - that’s just the way it is.

I can use many different examples like Fernando Torres at Liverpool and Chelsea, or Di Maria at Man Utd and Real Madrid, but I really think some players have different reasons for not performing to the top of their game and it mostly stems from how their life is off the field and the support they have.

Jozy has definitely returned to the MLS with a point to prove and he has not only scored some extremely important goals for us this season, but his overall play and attitude has been first class.

RR: We spoke much about your relationship with the club last time around, but what made the area such a special place to you? Those 7th placed finishes are but golden memories now; in your opinion how did Peter Reid and the squad managed such a fantastic couple of seasons?

DD: We had a fantastic team spirit that had been developed and groomed in our two seasons in the Championship prior to the Premier League success that we had. We really were a tight knit group that had been assembled very cleverly by Reidy and his staff. We had great depth in the squad with competition for places but no animosity or jealousy between us if you were not starting.

There was just such a brilliant feel good factor around the place that the fans fed off and we loved playing at home especially.

RR: On the topic of your time at Sunderland, who was the best player you played with during your stay on Wearside, and why?

DD: I was very lucky to play with a host of fantastic players during my time at Sunderland. The obvious ones were Super Kev and Niall Quinn who I really looked up to and respected. We also had two quality wingers in Allan Johnston and Nicky ‘Buzzer’ Summerbee who provided so much service to us guys and made it very simple for us to finish at times.

RR: Do you have any regrets looking back at your career?

DD: No, none really! Maybe I should have stayed a little bit longer at Sunderland, but I really wanted to play more and start games. Quinny was still performing at a decent level and also the club had brought in Lilian Laslandes for big money, so I thought my playing time would deteriorate even more.

RR: Enough about us - go ahead and tell us about your plans for the future. You're a permanent resident in Canada, but are there any dreams of moving back into Europe any time soon? If so, what would be your dream role and where?

DD: I am currently applying for my Canadian Citizenship as we have been living here for ten years now and me and my family love it! It is now a place we call home and feel very comfortable in.

The club have been very good to me and my family and it is very exciting times for us as we push into the finals for the first time in our clubs history.