Local hero: Blackburn's David Dunn on his life at Ewood Park

In the new FFT, out now in print and on iPad, we meet football's local heroes. Here, in an online exclusive, Richard Edwards meets Blackburn midfield maestro...

Then and now: Blackburn have always been close to Dunn's heart

David Dunn has seen most things during his career at Ewood Park, but there’s one moment that sticks in his mind more than any other – his first trip to the ground at which his life would ultimately revolve around.

“I can’t remember who we were playing, but the opposition were playing in red,” Dunn tells FourFourTwo. “Someone my grandma knows from my town, Great Harwood, took me along. We went on the bus, got dropped off at the Boulevard at Blackburn and walked all the way to Ewood. I just thought, bloody hell this is a long way. I was pretty small at the time and I was stood on the terracing.”

Dunn was, in many ways, lucky to grow up in era that saw Blackburn’s transform themselves from downbeat also-rans to nouveaux riche upstarts, thanks to the investment of Jack Walker.

Before the days of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, though, he had to make do with the rather more prosaic qualities of Lenny Johnrose and Mark Atkins. But while other kids his age were wandering round Blackburn town centre in Liverpool shirts, there was only ever one club in Dunn’s heart.

Dunn (front row, second left) in the Rovers youth side

“Obviously like any kid these days, there are those who support Man United and Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, I even see kids walking round in Barcelona and Real Madrid kits,” says Dunn. “I always went to watch Blackburn. If I had a second team then it was probably Liverpool but they still didn’t really register.

“Player-wise Shearer was probably my favourite Blackburn player because of what he did for us. The man was an absolute machine. I used to think that Gordon Cowans was a great player as well..I was 12 when Shearer signed and what he did for Blackburn Rovers over the next few years was remarkable.”

Dunn himself would sign professional terms with his boyhood club in 1998, just three years after Kenny Dalglish’s men had lifted the Premier League title. Again, it’s a moment that has stuck in Dunn’s mind.

“It was strange coming through the ranks, and it still happens now to a certain extent, you get treated a little bit different to the other lads,” says Dunn. “The club would be trying to persuade those players from further afield to come and join and they would get kit and boots. We were probably the last on the list for everything. It was special (when I did sign).

A thrilled Dunny signs on the dotted line back in 1998

“I had had a two year YTS contract, but me and Martin Taylor got a two year contract towards the start of my second year. My granddad has been a major influence on my career but for all my family and friends it was a reward for all the effort that they had put in over the years.”

It wasn’t long before Dunn was in the first team and making an impact in the Premier League – but being a local lad brought with it it’s fair share of problems.

“I was always very conscious of trying not to come across as being ‘big time’,” he says. “One thing I didn’t want to do was lose touch with the people I grew up with. I preferred to go out with my own mates in Blackburn. I got accused, at times, of going out more than others, which was never the case. It was just the fact that what should have been a positive – me staying firm to my roots – was seen as a negative by certain people.”

Now, some 15 years after his debut, Dunn has just one regret.

“I’m really competitive - I think that’s why I’ll carry on playing - and I hate losing,” says Dunn. “I’ve not played at Wembley and when we got beat by Millwall in the quarter-finals of the cup I was absolutely gutted. When we won the Worthington Cup [against Tottenham in 2002] it was at the Millennium. Although that’s a fantastic venue, as an Englishman you want to walk out at Wembley."

To read about more local lads who have become club idols - including Steven Gerrard, Mark Noble, Ben Davies and Danny Kedwell - check out the August 2013 edition of FourFourTwo, out now in print and on iPad. Read more about the issue here.