Joy for the Irish defender as he finally tastes freedom
Richard Dunne has spoken of his overwhelming joy at being released by Aston Villa after nearly four years in captivity at Villa Park.
Over the last 18 months, Villa had demanded exorbitant sums of money in exchange for Dunne's freedom, but negotiations had progressed in recent months as it became increasingly clear that Dunne's significance to the modern world had waned.
It was confirmed early on Wednesday morning that Dunne had been handed over to authorities on a secluded country lane near Birmingham.
"I know I will never get those four years of my life back," an emotional Dunne told FourFourTwo.
"I just want to try and forget my ordeal - those endless drab encounters in a half-full, charmless stadium for no discernible end with no prospect of escape."
Villa swooped for Dunne on September 2 2009, a date that will live long in the Irishman's memory.
"We'd just finished a training session at Man City and suddenly I was bundled into the back of a black SUV. As soon as I heard [Martin O'Neill's] voice from the front seat I knew the true gravity of the situation.
"He told me I was theirs now, but as long as I turned in functional performances in an old-fashioned back-line, nobody would get hurt - except those poor souls with a modicum of talent I was made to kick relentlessly. The next thing I knew I was being paraded in that awful shirt with all these fanatics leering and hooting at me."
Dunne's low point came in July 2011, when Stewart Downing, who was captured at around the same time as Dunne, was released after Liverpool deposited a payment of around £20m into Aston Villa's account.
"It was a crushing blow," Dunne admitted. "I wanted to know why I had been forgotten while Stewart was going free. He hadn't done anything to deserve it.
"I tried to ask the Big Eck [the nom du guerre of Alex McLeish] why I had been neglected, but he launched into an indecipherable 25-minute sentence that raised more questions than it answered.
"To make matters worse, I knew that if these lunatics [Aston Villa] could get £20m for someone as ordinary as Downing, they would continue snapping up innocent journeymen like me."
Dunne finished his press conference with a stark warning to the football community. "Villa are still very much active and nobody is safe," he insisted. "I'd urge any fringe player at the likes of Liverpool or Spurs to be on your guard."