One of football's finest hard men, former West Ham and Liverpool left-back Julian Dicks was nicknamed ‘The Terminator' because of his no-nonsense approach to tackling. Dicks captained West Ham to promotion in 1993, picking up three red cards along the way.
“I didn’t choose to retire, the decision was made for me by West Ham. They got the hump when my knee went. They wanted to pay me off and kick me out but I refused because I wanted to play on. I had the surgery and when I recovered, I played 12 more games before Harry Redknapp picked me as left wing-back against Charlton. I’d never played that position before in my life and he knew it. I realised then the writing was on the wall.
When I quit West Ham I had enough money in the bank to never work again. Then, in 2001, I got divorced and my wife took it all. We’d set up professional kennels and were looking after other people’s dogs. That was great because I love animals, especially English Bull Terriers. Some people find them threatening but it depends on how you bring them up. I had 13 of them at one time and two young girls and there was never any problem. When the wife left she took the dogs too.
So I decided to become a professional golfer. I’d been playing since I first injured my knee when I was 22, the doctor had told me that all the walking would be good for it. By the time I was 27 I was playing off scratch and had the same coach as Colin Montgomery. I even shot a couple of holes-in-one - which can be an expensive habit when you’re playing with 20 other people and have to buy them all a drink.
Golf’s meant to be a gentleman’s sport but I tended to lose my rag when I fluffed a shot. I ended up smashing loads of my clubs. That’s me though - I like to do things properly and I can get frustrated if things aren’t working out. Anyway, my knee eventually ended that career as well. It started swelling up so much I couldn’t play more than nine or 10 holes.
I was only 29 when I retired from football so I always felt cheated that I didn't have more time playing. In November 2001 my agent contacted the Canvey Island manager Jeff King, who I’d known for a few years, to see if he was interested in taking me on. He was, so I signed for the rest of the season and in my first game, against Sutton, I felt a lot more like my old self. I launched into a few, had a row with the ref, the linesmen and the crowd - yeah, I really enjoyed it. But after the twelfth game, my body let me know that it was going to have to be my last. I was in too much pain to carry on.
So I bought a pub; the Shepherd and Dog in Langham near Colchester. The secret to a good pint is easy; always clean your pipes once a week and the beer will alway tastes fresh. The pub’s more food orientated than beer though. Our grub is excellent – nothing’s frozen or processed and we do more than 1000 meals a week. I’m no good at cooking myself. I always said I wanted to learn but we’re always too busy, so I work behind the bar most days. The knee still bothers me because I’m on my feet all day, but I’ll have a couple of glasses of red wine and a couple of glasses of whisky and then it’s fine.
We have loads of football supporters come in just to say hello to me. Not just West Ham fans but Arsenal and Tottenham fans too. They used to boo me from the terraces but now we have a laugh. Mostly they give me stick about the tackles I used to make, in particular the time I was supposed to have stamped on the head of Chelsea’s John Spencer. I still claim innocence on that one and will do until the day I die.
When it’s closing time there’s no need for me to give it The Terminator treatment, because people know they’ve got to drink up. I don’t think I’ve ever lost my temper in the pub, although there was one time recently when a couple of kids had too much to drink. That was it. I just chucked them out. Most punters know that closing time’s closing time. They know there’s not going to be a lock-in, because I just want to go home and get to bed.
I always give 110 per cent in whatever I do, it doesn’t matter if it’s playing football, playing golf or running my pub. But take me out of a competitive environment and I’m a totally different person. I’m quiet and don’t really lose my temper.
When I get the chance to relax these days, I like to go fly fishing, smoke a few Cohiba cigars and just get away from it all. Last month, I caught a 16-pounder in Chigborough near Malden. It’s written in the book down there, if you don’t believe me.
I enjoy working in the pub but my mind is elsewhere. I still miss playing. I’d play local football if my knee would allow it, but I know that’s not going to happen. I’ve been out of the game for six years now and I want to get back into it on the management side. I know you can’t just jump right into it so I’m looking to start coaching in the lower leagues. I’ve had a couple of job offers but haven’t accepted them because they weren’t quite right for me. I am back on the market though and I’ve put the pub up for sale, so we’ll see what happens. I miss playing and if I’m honest I’m hoping that coaching can help me replace it.
Interview: Matthew Weiner. From the August 2005 issue of FourFourTwo.