The Julian Dicks column: 20th September

It's with great pleasure that we welcome West Ham United FC legend Julian Dicks to Julian shares his thoughts with the readers of Knees up Mother Brown on a regular basis via his weekly column, the latest of which begins with news of a possible return to football...

Managerial merry-go-round

Last week I applied for the vacant managerial position at Shamrock Rovers. Brian Laws has been hired as Director of Football there, but I don't know if he's going to handle team affairs or not and I haven't heard anything from them yet. As jobs come up I put my name in for them; one day's someone's got to go, "oh yeah, we'll have a go with him"!

Too many clubs just seem to go around the same old managers and are reluctant to give new managers a try. Instead they'll say: "We'll have him because he's been here and here" - and even if he's been sacked from them all, they'll give him another go.

I'm not bitter, but I think perhaps the chairmen and directors should look further afield and say: "Hang on a minute, we'll go with him". You just never know; look at Paolo [Di Canio]. He's never managed before, but he's gone in to Swindon and done a fantastic job.

You've also got Steve Clark at West Brom, even though he's been a fantastic coach at many big clubs. He's also had his chance and he's doing well at the moment. But there's not many new managers coming in. They come through the ranks at the club but the owners don't say: "We've sacked the first team manager so we'll employ the reserve team manager." They don't do it.

I don't know if they're scared or just haven't got the b*llocks. Even if there are financial considerations, why do they continue to employ managers who have been sacked everywhere else!?

Back to basics

I've had a busy week coaching. I've been to Brentwood, Witham and also East Ham. I teach mostly lads but I'm due to coach an under 15s girls team tonight. I'm not so sure about the FA's plans to let boys and girls play together until their teens though as boys are mostly physically stronger - especially at 12, 13 years old.

I just think the FA are trying anything because England haven't won anything since 1966. I'm all for seven-a-side and nine-a-side games, but they're on about bringing in four vs. four games - which is proper hard work. We used to do it in training; ones vs. ones, twos vs. twos - it's hard work if done properly.

But I still think it goes back to coaching kids properly; I see some of them being coached and it's laughable. I'm not saying I'm a great coach or anything but when you're getting kids to run round a field to warm them up, it's not right.

I think English football needs a complete overhaul. It doesn't matter who you are - if you're Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, whoever - they all start playing grass roots football at four, five, six years old on a Saturday or Sunday and for me, it goes back to there.

When I'm coaching I watch other coaches with kids. Some make them run round the pitch to warm up, have a five a side - and that's it. That's not coaching and they don't learn the basics; passing, controlling, that sort of thing. When I coach kids they often say "can we have a game of football?" - and I say "once we've done this and this if we have time, we'll have a game".

My dad was a big influence on me when I was growing up. He was a good player [for Frome Town] and well known around Bristol but he never forced me to play football. He'd watch me at the weekends and encourage me - he'd never shout at me, unlike some parents now.

If I'd done something wrong he'd tell me - that's what parents do. But he wasn't like "you've got to do this" - he'd just let me get on with it.

Bring on the Mackems

West Ham have had a great start to the season, keeping three clean sheets at home plus earning a valuable point at Norwich. Although they haven't played any of the top teams yet, you can only beat what's put in front of you and they've done well to do that.

In fact, I think they've done very well considering how weak they are defensively. I think the full backs could do with strengthening and I'm not the biggest fan of either Winston Reid or James Tomkins; Sam Allardyce could certainly do with an extra centre half.

Reid, for me, has looked out of his depth at times since joining the club - although he's improved this season - and whilst Tomkins is fine in the air, a solid, no-nonsense defender, he worries me with the ball at his feet.

However if they're still where they are in mid-season I'll hold my hands up - and I back them to beat Sunderland this weekend. Martin O'Neill is a good manager and I like his passion on the sidelines but I think West Ham will be too strong for them.

Looking back: The John Spencer incident

On 11th September 1996, West Ham played Chelsea in a televised Premiership match at the Boleyn Ground. Chelsea's John Spencer, who was celebrating his 25th birthday left the pitch with eight stitches in his head after an incident involving Julian that resulted in Dicks being accused of stamping on his oppenent and vilified by the press over the course of the next few days, having become one of the first victims of 'trial by TV'.

Julian takes up the story...

View a video of the incident on YouTube

The incident happened down in the corner by the West Stand and Bobby Moore Stand; I can remember him [Spencer] going over the top of me and I thought he was trying to do me. Anyway, he went over and as I got back to my feet my studs brushed the back of his head. I genuinely never meant to hurt him. I knew I had - I mean, when he came back on the field after treatment he had a big bandage round his head! - but it was unintentional.

He [Spencer] asked me if I'd done it on purpose - and I told him that if I'd meant it he'd have had 28 stitches, not eight. But Glenn Hoddle wasn't having any of that - and nor were [Sky's] Andy Gray and [former BBC pundit and Chelsea fan] David Mellor who were both up in arms about it. Anyway, Harry [Redknapp] and I were hauled up in front of the idiots at the FA and I was fined and given a three-match ban.

My agent Rachel [Anderson] actually rang Andy Gray and tried to set up a meeting so that I could give my side of the story but he wasn't interested. I also remember Harry Redknapp taking me to one side in training a few days later and asking if I'd meant it; when I said no, he said: "You f*cking liar"!

I suppose they had the last laugh though as I was sent off in the next league game at Arsenal five days later for fouling Ian Wright [a second bookable offence]. When he signed for West Ham the first thing I said to him was that I thought he was a diver!

The big four

I worked under four managers at West Ham; John Lyall, Lou Macari, Billy Bonds and Harry Redknapp. John was a one-off, he was 20 or 30 years ahead of his time. Everybody knows what I think about John, I had the utmost respect for him. He was a gentleman, the nicest man you could ever hope to meet.

Then Lou came in and he tried to change too many things in a short space of time - the food we ate, the ban on fizzy drinks, the training. You couldn't do this, you couldn't do that - but you could gamble if you wanted to! I saw Lou not so long ago and at the end of the day people know I had spats with him, but he's another one who I've got a lot of respect and a lot of time for.

Harry, for me, is a fantastic manager. He always wants to play football but we all know what went on at West Ham. Billy was a fitness fanatic, he was and still is a very fit man; he's unbelievable. Again I have the utmost respect for Billy as a person and as a player although I don't know if he wanted to be a manager. I loved working under Billy - apart from the running!

When John was sacked I felt gutted. He was like a father figure to a lot of players - even the older players. We were told he was sacked but thought, "No, it can't be true, he's been here from day one". Instead of sacking him they should have put him upstairs.

They should have said: "Look John, it's not going so well at the moment, we want you to come upstairs so we can bring a new manager in". I think we could have accepted that but for them to go bang, "see you later"? Not good at all. I think it was disgraceful.

At the end of the day I could have understood if John had only been there for two or three seasons but he'd been there man and boy. It was incredible that they could have got rid of him like that.

Julian Dicks was talking to Graeme Howlett.

* Julian is currently available to coach both junior and senior football teams. For more details, follow him on Twitter at

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