Saturday, 1 June 2013

Tony Dunne

1979 : Detroit Express (USA)
1982 - 83 : Steinkjer FK (Norway)

One of Irish football's most decorated winners, Tony Dunne won 5 top flight trophies in a 21 career. He was born in Dublin in 1941 and played for local side Shelbourne as a youngster. At the age of 19 he moved to Manchester United were he established himself as the club's left-back and first XI starter for over 13 years. With United he won 2 League titles, 1 FA Cup, and a European Cup in 1968. Part of a highly talented United team in the 1960s, Dunne is still considered today as one of the greatest full-backs in Man Utd’s history.

He earned the first of his 33 Republic caps in 1962 at home to Austria. Over the next 13 years he would captain his country on 4 occasions and often played at centre-back for Ireland. 

When he left Manchester in 1973 he was 32 years old. He signed for Bolton in England's Second Division. With the Trotters he returned to the top flight in 1978, and then spent one more year at Burnden Park. Finally, in 1979 he made the final move of his playing career, to North American Soccer League (NASL) side Detroit Express. He was 38 years old.

Detroit were a new side that had been formed the previous year. Based in Michigan's largest city and playing at the massive 80,000 seater Pontiac Stadium, Express had come 1st in the Central Division of the NASL in 1978. For 1979, the roster included Dunne, English star Trevor Francis, and Scottish internationals Ted MacDougall and Jim Brown. Meanwhile the coach was former Darlington and Watford defender Ken Furphy.

Dunne was handed the no3 shirt, the first time in his career that he'd have a fixed squad number. 

The season was not a success for the Express. They finished 3rd in the Central Division behind Houston and Chicago, but ahead of 4th place Memphis. As a result, they still managed to qualify for the Championship play-offs but were pummeled there by the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Dunne had made 12 appearances at contributed 2 assists to the cause. 

This was Dunne's last stint as a professional footballer. Nearing 40, he finally hung up his boots after a long, successful and noble career. Immediately he returned to Bolton to take up an Assistant Manager role under former team-mate and boss Ian Greaves.

He was still at this job when Norwegian club Steinkjer came calling and offered him the job as manager of their first team. The club had just done away with the services of previous coach Bill Foulkes, who had played with Dunne at Old Trafford.
Steinkjer are an old club, having been founded in 1910. For most of their history they have been a yo-yo club, bouncing between the country's top two leagues. By the time of Dunne's arrival, they were playing in Norway's second division.  He was succesful and managed to get the club to the play-offs for a spot in 1983's 1. divisjon (First Division), but they were defeated twice and lost out. The following season his team failed again to reach the 1. divisjon and Dunne stepped down.

In later years Irish goalkeeper Gary Hogan would line out for Steinkjer.

His two seasons in Norway were Dunne's last in football, and the 42 year old Dubliner retired from the game. He currently lives in Sale, England and owns a driving range.

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