Richard Dunne Exclusive Interview with OLBG

Updated: 123 Football

In an exclusive interview with OLBG, former footballer Richard Dunne discusses the Republic of Ireland's recent performance, the future of team leadership, and reflects on his time with Man City.

Richard Dunne Exclusive Interview with OLBG
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Richard Patrick Dunne, born in 1979, is a retired Irish professional footballer and current television pundit for BT Sport. He primarily played as a centre-back and made 431 Premier League appearances, with the majority of his career spent at Manchester City. Dunne also played for Everton, Aston Villa, and Queens Park Rangers, as well as internationally for the Republic of Ireland. Here he talks to OLBG about Ireland's game against the Netherlands, Man City and more

What did you think of Ireland’s performances against France and Netherlands?

“I think they were two very difficult games and they knew that going into this month they were going to be hard ones. The France game is so difficult; you could easily go there and lose 5 or 6-0, because they are that good in the way they set up. 

“We didn't have much chance on the break, it would've been nice to see if we had something that could've caused them a bit of trouble, but it's understandable because they are such a good side. 

“In the second game against the Netherlands in the first half, I thought we were great, we performed really well and put them under loads of pressure. We were winning the ball high up the pitch and had some opportunities to score and we did, but we let them back in and let them dictate the tempo of the game again before the penalty. 

“In the second half, we didn't come out and play, I think they changed the system and it took us a little bit of time to react to that, and by then they had a hold of the game. 

“They were 2-1 up and they are a good enough side to be able to see it out. We needed something out of the two games and of course, we didn't get that, so it is the end of another campaign I think. In that sense it's disappointing, but there were certainly small parts of the games where you thought that was good, but not enough.

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Who were the stand-out players during the international break?

“I think the way that we played over a period of time. We play in this sort of way that no- one is isolated, so nobody looks outstanding and nobody has really had any poor games. 

“I would say certainly in the second match, I really liked Alan Browne, I thought he did really well. I think Jason Knight is a very good player, he's done great for Ireland, so I would say those two and certainly in the second game stood out.

“The main problem was that we were missing Evan Ferguson, he's the one we were hoping to see in the side, especially after the last round of the Premier League. That was a big blow and he's probably the one going forward who we’re looking to be the guy you would love to watch for Ireland.

What makes Evan Ferguson stand out? 

Richard Dunne Praises Young Player Evan Ferguson's Maturity and Potential in Football

Richard Dunne applauds young player Evan Ferguson for his impressive maturity in playing and learning the game. He expresses excitement in watching Ferguson's development as a center-forward due to his versatile style, as he shows potential in scoring goals and contributes to the team in various ways.

“It's his all-round game. We're all trying to work out what type of centre forward he'll be, does he want to drop deep, does he want to run in behind, he just seems to have a little bit of everything. 

“He's still very young, he's still learning the game but the maturity with which he plays is very impressive as well at the moment. 

“I think he's the player that you're just going to enjoy watching develop because I'm not sure 100% what style of centre-forward he is, he looks like someone who will just get goals and help the team out, he does a little bit of everything.

“He is very good at everything at the moment and it's just a case of wait and see. Certainly from an Ireland point of view, he's not a centre forward that will just stand in the box, he's a centre forward that we can use and build a team around which is exciting for us. 

Past or present, which striker in world football would you compare him to? 

Is Evan Ferguson the Next Harry Kane, but for Ireland?
Photo: Shutterstock/ph.FAB

“I think he's quite an individual player, I've watched him and coached him at one stage with the Irish U16's, only for one small period, but I know his dad, I used to play alongside his dad as a junior at Home Farm, so I've known about his talent for a while.

“I'm still trying to work out what kind of striker he is. He's got elements of Harry Kane in his game, he's got a bit of everything. 

“I don't want to pigeonhole him and compare him because he could go any way he wants, he's that impressive at a young age, I still think he has a long way to go in development but it's very impressive what we are seeing at the moment. 

Do you still think Stephen Kenny is the right man for the job? 

“I think we have gone through a few different setups during his reign and we've tried to change the style of football into a more possession-based game, but it's not really worked. 

“We aren't capable of going to Paris and outplaying France, we’re not capable of outplaying the Netherlands, we've outplayed lesser teams but still lost the games. 

“I can understand from the manager's point of view that he’s brought in loads of players and he’s changed everything. I think the problem is that he thinks it's a whole new system that no one has ever seen before, but it's just basic football and, at times, we've got into situations where we're just keeping the ball but not actually causing teams trouble. 

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“In the first half against the Netherlands, we played when we had the time and it was really good, but we also got down the channels and caused some trouble. We had them running back towards their own goal and we pressed them high up the field. I think he still needs to find that balance of what he wants and at the end of the day, he has to win games. 

“You have to be a successful manager to warrant staying in the job. I think it's three qualifying campaigns and two Nations Leagues at the moment, and we haven't really gotten past the third game without feeling like it's dead rubber.

“Based on that, it's difficult to say that he's definitely the right man for the job, but when we win there are certain aspects to the game that you can look at and you can see something. 

Richard Dunne Weighs in on Manager's Future, Suggests Need for Experienced Leadership

Richard Dunne comments that the decision for the manager's continuation is up to the FAI and not him. Despite the manager having received numerous opportunities which is unprecedented in Irish history, the results have been subpar. Dunne suggests that the team might benefit from a more experienced international manager who is well-versed in global football.

“It's not my call if the manager stays or not, it's up to the FAI, but I think he's been given as many opportunities as any Irish manager in history and, if they feel like he's the right man, then so be it. 

“If they feel that all of those games where we’ve lost by one goal or we've been close but not quite gotten the results we wanted, the difference might be a more experienced International manager or someone who has been around International football.

“It's a popular job. Half the time in Ireland you're thinking who'd want the job, hearing the rumours, but it's a really good job there's a good group of players there. 

“The current manager has given this group of players experience and has helped them on their first steps of International football. There are plenty of positives in what he has done, it's just whether he is the right man to carry on. I don't think the FAI will be short of options to replace him. 

Where does Ferguson rank in terms of young strikers in world football, and how many Premier League goals do you think he’ll score this year? (4 so far)

Young Player's Potential to Match High-Scoring Records, Given Sufficient Game Time: Richard Dunne's Views

Dunne believes that the young player, who scored six goals last year, could potentially target eight or ten this year. The player's usage, alternating between playing and resting, is deemed smart for his long-term development. The speaker suggests that the player might aim to reach double figures, aspiring to match the goal-scoring records of renowned players like Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney. The key would be getting sufficient game time and based on what has been observed, the speaker is confident that the goals will follow for the young player.

“I think he got six goals last year so if he can get up past eight or 10 this year, that will be a good return. He’s still very young, still playing a few games and then out for a couple of games. The way they are using him is clever and important for his long-term development. 

“He'll have his own targets I'm sure, but I think he'd love to target double figures with the right amount of game time. Players like Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney, who were top young centre forwards scoring a lot of goals as teenagers, are people who I'm sure he'd love to get near in terms of the numbers. 

“It's all about getting the game time and from what we've seen so far, the goals will come for him.”

How much do you think he’s worth in today’s market and the recent links to Man City- would you be happy if City signed him to play with Haaland, would that be good for his development?

“Man City don't generally play with two up front but I think from what I've seen from Evan and Brighton, he’s well suited to where he is at the moment. 

“The big move and the big clubs will all be there for him as he develops and as he gets older and stronger and has more experience at the top level. I have no doubt it'll be Man City, or any of the other best clubs around the world will all be looking at him. 

“I'm sure he's already had options to go places and I think he's doing great. Brighton are a really good club at developing talent, they finish high up in the league and are competing in Europe this year so I wouldn't think he's in any rush to move on.”

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Image: sportingnews

“From a numbers point of view, he's been untouchable, he's been the difference to Man City. If you look back and think about what were they missing in terms of going on and winning the Champions League, it probably was the natural number nine. 

“I know he didn't score in the later stages of the competition, but he just causes trouble and forces players to mark him, they might even need two of them, he creates spaces in other areas. 

“Whatever the Ballon d’Or is judged on, I obviously think Messi is the more complete footballer, he is the finished article. Haaland has things he needs to improve on, even as good as he is. He could still be better outside the box and getting more involved in games, but if you're looking at out-and-out goalscorers there is nobody in the world who can touch him.”

Will Haaland rise above Mbappe to become football's GOAT in the post-Messi and Ronaldo era?

“I hope we can get that rivalry again of two or three top players in the world. I think Haaland is on the road to becoming a superstar. Mbappe needs to settle down somewhere and find a club that suits him, the transfer rumours don't help him. 

“I think the levels he can reach are extremely high and the speed he has is incredible, but sometimes you watch him and wonder if he's happy or interested. Is it a long-term thing at PSG or does he need to move on to another club? When we work that out, I think we might start to see the best of him.

What do you think of Man City’s start to the season, four games, four wins- is that just to be expected now?

“I think City have started great. After the success of last year and the number of games they played, it might be a case of easing their way into this season, but they have started great. 

“They are playing really well and scoring goals. If their title rivals don't start improving, they could be out of sight really fast because of the level of performers they have in their team. 

“They had a few changes in the summer but brought players in to replace them and it all seems like it's working and clicking really well. The injury to Kevin De Bruyne is just a disappointment because out of all the players, he and Haaland are outstanding and difficult to replace. You just don't see them letting up from where they are right now and I think it'll be tough for any team to stop them at the moment.”

Premier League Betting Odds

England Premier League 2023/24 11 Apr @ 13:06 - Win Tournament
Man City 2.50
Arsenal 2.88
Liverpool 3.30
Tottenham 2501.00
Aston Villa 4501.00

Who has been your favourite new man City signing so far? Is the squad now stronger than last year?

“I think they have made some interesting signings, the players that they have lost such as Mahrez, Gundogan, Palmer and Laporte. I think the new signings will take some time to settle, Nunes is a player I really like and I'm looking forward to watching him play. 

“Kovacic is a player we are familiar with around the Premier League and from what I've seen so far, he's probably still getting to grips with what the manager will demand from him. Once that is addressed, I’m sure he’ll be fine.

“Doku is the exciting one, this came out of the blue a little bit and someone who has been talked about for a while within the footballing circle. He’s been touted as a brilliant young player so it’ll be good to see him, and his pace is electric which will always cause trouble in the Premier League. 

What did you make of the outgoings? Cole Palmer leaving at the end of the window must have been a shock.

“I think his progression over the last two years has been great, he scored two important goals in the Community Shield and the Super Cup. He started the season really well and seemed to be the player that would fill the gap left by Mahrez. 

“From what I'm reading and hearing, he wanted to play more games and be guaranteed more starts, so I would say City would have been reluctant to let him go, but once the player makes up his mind it's very hard to keep him. 

“He was the most disappointing of the players to leave, but I wish him all the best and I hope he gets the game time he's looking for.”

The Champions League returns this month, what do you think of City’s group, are there any potential banana skins in there?

“I remember when the Champions League group was drawn thinking that was pretty easy for City. Leipzig is the only team that you would think is dangerous to them and they beat them 7-0 last season, and they signed their best player in Gvardiol. 

“You would expect that they'll be in the knockout stages and they will be happy with the draw they got. If they can win their games early, it gives them the opportunity then to rest players and give young, squad players the opportunity to play in the Champions League. 

“I think that will be really important to them as the number of games they play, most players will feel like they’re getting enough minutes on the pitch. It's important for City to go deep into all the competitions and with the squad they have and it should be a clear path into the knockout rounds.”

Group G Champions League Betting

England Premier League 2023/24 11 Apr @ 13:06 - Win Tournament
Man City 2.50
Arsenal 2.88
Liverpool 3.30
Tottenham 2501.00
Aston Villa 4501.00

Pep Guardiola being linked with the England job

“You can understand the links, everybody wants Pep. From all accounts, he's loving what he’s doing at Man City and they will do everything possible to keep him. 

“That being said, he has spoken in the past about managing at a World Cup in the future. 

“I don't think that will ever be with Spain for his own reasons, but England, with the generation of players they have at the moment, if they had a manager like Pep, I think it would be amazing for them. He understands how to win at the very top level of the game.”

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Credit: cristiano barni / Shutterstock.com

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How was the season during your last year at Manchester City, did the atmosphere change after so many big names joined during that summer?

The atmosphere in terms of the players stays the same, everybody wants the same success. The big chance was the whole exterior pressure and interest that came into the club; it was huge. 

“There was a real sense that things were changing and everything was going to get bigger and better, there was only one direction in which the owners wanted the club to go in. 

“The belief was that it wasn't a short-term thing, and the owners wanted to put Man City at the very top levels of football. 

“It has taken a period of time to finally get their hands on the Champions League, but they got there and I'm sure when they go and play in the World Club Cup, winning that would be the pinnacle for the owners, and they'll believe they've achieved everything they set out to do. If you look at their business in the most recent transfer window, they aren't easing off, they’re investing again. The plan has delivered exactly what it promised 13 years ago.”

In terms of strikers you faced throughout your career, who was your toughest opponent? 

“Thierry Henry was my toughest opponent, the speed he had, the skill he had and the team he was playing in, he was an outstanding footballer on his own. 

joshjdss, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

“He had some incredible backup too in that Arsenal team with the likes of Denis Bergkamp, Patrick Viera and Robert Pires helping him out, which made it even more difficult. 

“The generation of strikers I played against were some of the best. We've gone through a period where there haven't been so many top strikers, but if you go back and look at the likes of Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Didier Drogba, Ruud Van Nistlerooy and Michael Owen, there were so many. 

“It's hard to pick the best, but I would say in terms of all-round ability, it had to be Henry.”

Joey Barton often seems to tell stories about you during interviews- what happened during the pre-season tour in Thailand? And are the two of you still friends?

“We'd had a couple of drinks and a bit of a scuffle, but within a couple of days, we were friends again. 

Image: BBC

“We were playing together at QPR at the time and I have a lot of respect for Joey and what he's done as a footballer, and what he's doing as a coach. I don't see him very often but I have only kind words to say about him. I think he's a really good lad and I wish him well.

“Joey was a very good player, I don't think he got the praise he deserved during his career because of the off-the-pitch stuff that happened throughout his time playing. 

“It took away from what happened on the pitch, but you could ask anyone who played with him that he always gave 100%, his preparation was always good, and his willingness to go and win games was second to none. He was a very good player who didn't get the accolades and the praise he deserved.”

What are your memories of the 2002 World Cup- were you there during the infamous Keane/McCarthy argument? 

2002 World Cup

Richard Dunne recounts his experiences leading up to a World Cup tournament, where he filled in for injured centre-backs during the qualifiers, aiding his international development. However, with all players fit during the World Cup, he didn't get to play, albeit describing the experience as incredible. He reflects on one of their games against Spain which they lost on penalties and the various disputes within the team, notably including Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy - an incident he views as regrettable for all involved, especially their inability to utilize Keane in the games.

“It was a great time, I think I had played in 10 of the 12 qualifiers leading into the tournament. During that period, most of the centre-backs had been injured, so I was filling in for one and then for the other the next game. 

“It was great for my International development, but by the time the World Cup came around, everyone was back fit and we took five or six centre-backs, so I didn't get the chance to play, but the experience was unbelievable. 

“Everything about it, the build-up, getting there, and watching the games, being a part of the process was brilliant. We were unlucky, we should have beaten Spain and ended up losing on penalties in a difficult game, we did alright considering what had happened before. 

“Everybody was there for the argument, it just happened in one of the meeting rooms, people always ask about it. 

“It's not my story to tell and it blew up unfortunately for the team and Roy (Keane) had to leave, which was a shame because of the player he was. 

“I also have a lot of respect for Mick McCarthy so it was one of those things between two good guys which went wrong and was disappointing for everyone, disappointing for Roy and the manager not to have Roy available for the games. 

Is Keane the hardest man you’ve ever played with or against? If not- who would take that title? 

Editorial credit: Influential Photography / Shutterstock.com

“Roy was very demanding of his team and of himself and he just wanted to be the best. I think he would do whatever it took to win games and everybody in the teams wants that on their side. 

“The success he had showed the character that he was, he wasn't just a hardman who would go around fighting and kicking people, he was a brilliant footballer. 

“I played with Duncan Ferguson who was pretty hard but I wouldn't say Roy would be classed as just a hardman, he had a lot more to his game than that.” 

Another one of your old clubs Everton has had a tough start to the season how do you see their season going? Do you think they’ll struggle to stay up?

“It's been a tough start for Everton

“Everybody knows the investment isn't there that the club deserves, they spent a lot of money going back a few years and it never worked out, and now the money isn't there anymore. 

“It's hard for the manager and even the players when it's like that, you want to see fresh faces and new players coming in. They've signed Beto and he looks good so far, they'll hope that he can galvanise the team and give them a focal point. 

“Calvert-Lewin has been the main man but unfortunately, he doesn't play enough games for Everton to be able to rely on him. For them to stay up I think they'll probably need more investment in the January window, there's talk of new owners but whether they can invest or not, I'm not sure. 

“You wouldn't want anyone else other than Dyche in charge of Everton, he is someone who can create a team that's hard to beat, which is what Everton needs to be at the moment. 

“It’s just taking him some time to find that balance between a really good defence that doesn't concede many goals, while being able to have that freedom to go and score goals and win games. 

“Looking at his track record of what he has done at previous clubs, he's certainly the man to keep them up, hopefully pretty soon things will start to look up and they will start to pick up more points.” 

What are your thoughts on Villa’s start to the season and how do you think their new signings have adapted to the Premier League?

“I think Villa have been really good and they are exciting to watch, they've conceded a lot of goals in the games that they've lost but they are so exciting to watch going forward. 

“They've obviously changed their whole style of football in terms of how they want to build up and play football, which sometimes leaves gaps in the defence when they lose the ball in quick turnovers which will always be difficult for them. 

“Unai Emery looks like he's doing a really good job. It's a massive transformation and playing in Europe is a big bonus for them, but they've invested really well over the last couple of windows and they look like a team that's on the way up and not a team that has had just one good season. 

“They look like they are building on it again and I can see them having a really good year. 

“Their squad isn't massive and they've had a couple of injuries defensively already this season which has knocked them back a little bit. 

“Emery has an amazing record in Europe and I'm sure he would love to continue that, but at the end of the day, the bread and butter is the Premier League. 

“If they are still in Europe past Christmas, which I would expect them to be, then they will strengthen again in January and do their best to push forward on all fronts. 

“I think it's important for Villa's progression to try and win something, and if they can win a European Cup or even the Carabao or FA Cup, it will be a huge advance on where the club sees itself and where they want to reach. 

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Refs and VAR

“They are just getting decisions wrong, which is worrying. Even with VAR, they are getting decisions wrong which we were told wasn't going to be the case. 

“I watched the Wales game recently and the guy got kicked around the knee and the referee looked at the screen for two or three minutes and decided it was a good tackle. How on earth is that happening? 

“It all comes down to people's interpretations of decisions and, unfortunately, they are getting a lot wrong each weekend which they shouldn't be, and I don't know how they fix it. 

“It's not easy to just summon new referees, it takes time and experience, and maybe some of the referees lack enough experience. It's incredibly frustrating and if it impacts your teams then it's even more frustrating. 

“VAR hasn't made officiating perfect, which is frustrating, it's not been spot on. 

“Sometimes you look at the lines and you think the camera angle is wrong and it looks different from the other side. It's very hard with the system that is in place at the moment, and the longer the VAR technology is used, the easier it becomes for the referees to make the decisions. 

“People used to say that VAR would eliminate all the Saturday night 'pub talk' about offsides and controversial goals, but it hasn't done any of that. People now just say VAR doesn't work, the referee got that one wrong, similar stuff to before. It's kept the debate going and it's not cleared up what it was supposed to.” 


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