It’s not often you get the chance to meet a Lonsdale Belt holder and potential world title holder, so it was a bit of a surprise when one came along to meet a couple of our players. Mind, as the meeting was at Birtley Boxing Club, it shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise. West Rainton’s Tommy Ward won the British Super Bantamweight title in 2017 and is having a world title fight later this year, planning to bring a world title back to Wearside. He was on hand to show his belt to a very impressed Charlie Methven, before explaining the life of a boxer to Luke O’Nien (AKA Lucky Luke) and new boy Jimmy (The Tall Guy) Dunne, while listening to their tales of life as a professional footballer. He then put them through their paces in the ring, despite the 15k weight and about three-foot reach advantage possessed by Dunne. ALS was there to catch up with arguably our most enthusiastic player, and our newest.
ALS Jimmy, welcome to Wearside. How did the move come about?
Jimmy Dunne: It’s been on the cards for a week or so, and at one stage I didn’t think it was going through, but it all came together in no time at the end, I came up, had my medical, got the paperwork sorted, and did my first training session this morning. I’ve watched a lot of League One football, and seen the good, positive football Sunderland are playing, with having the ball for the majority of the game.
ALS There’s been quite a history between Sunderland and Ireland…
JD Oh yeah. It was a great opportunity to come to a club like Sunderland, I’ve asked people back home, and they’ve a big fanbase there, and John O’Shea is a legend, especially for a young defender, so to know Ireland players come here and do well is nice to know. All my family and mates are really excited about the move. I’m looking to push on Internationally, having been part of the U21 set-up and having one senior call-up, but I hope I can do well here and knock on the door a bit more and actually get a senior game. I know Reece James and Donald Love as they’re ex-Man U players, so I remember them when I was coming through there, and it was good to see them again today.
ALS Where do you see your best position, and what will you bring to the team?
JD I’ve played all across the defence, and as part of a three, so I’m comfortable defending anywhere, but as time went on, through loans at Barrow, Accrington, and Hearts, and me being a big lad, I concentrated on central defence.
ALS Right back?
Luke O’Nien, interrupting: Nah, I’m the right back! We can sort this out in the ring!
JD Ha, right. I’ll bring 100% effort, and being a big lad who can compete physically, to the team, with good ability in the air. I’ve come up against some physical forwards so far, so I’ll be using that experience in League One with Sunderland. I’m not sure what that step up to League One will be physically, but I‘ve had a lot of football in the last year, and I think I can cope with reading the game and the physical side of it. I want to be a nuisance in the air at both ends of the field, but primarily I’m a defender so I’ll be looking to be part of a solid centre back there and keep as many clean sheets as we can in the rest of the season. I spoke with the manager and was impressed with his positive attitude, and that’s what I saw with the other lads at training this morning. I feel ready to go straight in at the weekend, throw me in, all I can do is prepare.
ALS Luke, if you were picking the team, where would you put yourself?
LO’N I’ve really enjoyed the last few games at right back after taking a little while on the pitch to get used to it, but to be honest, I’ll play wherever the manager wants me to. I’ve based my career so far on being a midfielder, but I’d be more than happy to continue at the back. I look at all my footage and with the management staff and look at areas where I could be better positionally, and it makes it easier with the people I’ve got around me, I’ve got great defenders to my left, I’ve got great support in front of me with Gooch, usually, and they make my job a lot easier. I’ll always give my all and look to put in a good performance.
ALS George Honeyman stated that nobody would work harder than him – is that part of your philosophy as well?
LO’N I saw that in the Netfilx documentary, and it’s a great way to think. I’m enthusiastic in everything I do, and it helps that I’m in my dream job – I’m in a very privileged position. I love training, working with the other players, I want to be every day pushing my mind, my body, to the max, so that when on a weekend when it all comes together, I’ve got all the tools necessary to help get the boys three points. I get to run out in front of all those fans. It’s brilliant. I played at Wycombe, who were great for me and helped me get to where I am now, at this huge club, it’s incredible, so I’ll always hold them in high esteem. Just when I think I know this club, though, it surprises me again, it really is special. I’ve never seen a fanbase like it before –having 16,000 at a Checkatrade game, when last year I was looking at four or five thousand, but now – 46,000 on Boxing Day, and nearly 8,000 of ours at Blackpool – it gets you fired up and I’m very proud to be a part of it. Was the Checkatrade game a real derby? It was my first one here and I understand that some people might think it should be first teams, but for me, it was another game we needed to win, and we did, so yes.
ALS Tell us again how it feels to score your first goal and your first at home.
LO’N Cor, well, I’ve told my family and friends that if I could bottle that feeling and give it to other people, I would, because it’s special. And it’s hard to explain unless you’ve done it. Thankfully I’ve managed a couple more since, but every goal is special, seeing how happy it makes people, and if it contributes to a win it’s one of the most rewarding things ever. The back-post volley might just become a speciality, it’s getting there! Even as kid, the feeling when the ball hit the back of the net was special, but magnify that… it’s just fantastic. You get into the whole thing with the team and the fans, and when I went to jump on that fan in celebration, he stood up and I ended up tackling him. We’re fine now, though, ‘cos I offered to pay for his gear to be cleaned! In terms of where the team wants to be, I think we’re pretty close terms of league position, but we’ve just got to keep playing the football for the rest of the season, and I’ll do my bit wherever.
ALS What about Jimmy Dunne?
LO’N Well he’s a big hitter in the ring, so I’ll have my work cut out with the weight and height difference, but I’ll work on it.