CHRIS Dunn has hung up his goalkeeping gloves, but with the help of the Professional Footballers’ Association, he is now figuring out a new profession as an accountant.
MID-WINTER, and that January day dawned crisp and cloudless as the Abbey Stadium reverberated for a tie that had all the classic FA Cup ingredients.
Cambridge, 76 places below Manchester United and boasting a club mantra: ‘It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog,’ versus Louis Van Gaal’s lavishly assembled squad.
Chris Dunn, Cambridge’s dependable and trusted goalkeeper, was to emerge as their champ and the memories of that David and Goliath clash five years ago still gives him a warm glow.
The League Two minnows had dared to dream and when Dunn saved splendidly from Colombian Radamel Falcao and Argentinian Angel Di Maria, Cambridge had earned themselves a money-spinning replay at Old Trafford.
Their head coach Richard Money had told his players not to swap shirts because the club couldn’t afford it.
“David de Gea, the Manchester United ‘keeper, handed me his shirt at the final whistle– it is framed and in pride of place at home,” said a proud Dunn.
“Drawing a big club is always a dream, and you have a mindset, ‘Well there’s nothing to lose here.
“There was excitement and apprehension, but it was a little surreal too.
“Nobody expected us to get a result and I was fortunate to be part of it.
“It was a huge team effort - we defended for our lives.”
At Northampton Town, five years earlier, Dunn had celebrated a famous victory with Northampton Town when they had delivered a League Cup KO to Liverpool at Anfield.
Now, following a journey that has taken him on a winding journey through Wrexham, Walsall and to non-league Maidenhead United, Dunn is busy calculating a new goal in life.
“I’m working as an Audit and Accounts manager, in charge of a team of five people with an accountancy firm in Lincolnshire,” he said.
“It is certainly a very different life, and a polar opposite from football.
“But I do see a strong link, because a lot of the skills I learnt in football I’ve found them to be transferable ones to what I’m doing now.”
A goalkeeper’s role can be an unforgiving and sometimes lonely one.
They put their faces where others put their studs and the 33-year-old was always as brave as a lion.
He added: “You have to have a great resilience, be tough too.
“But I found great leadership qualities in football, working with managers Richard Money and Gary Johnson.
“I picked up so much knowledge from those guys, and they had so much to offer in terms of man management skills and organisation.
“A goalkeeper has to be a little bit selfish and develop a hard skin.
“But my life doesn’t revolve around just me anymore because I’m responsible for other people.
“I’m an all or nothing person and my career had reached a crossroads.”
Dunn had to study hard for his accountancy qualifications and was keen to praise the assistance given to him by the Professional Footballers’ Association.
“I was studying one evening a week for three years and that was pretty challenging when I was playing professionally too,” he said.
“I made my mind up early to pursue an accounting career.
“I’ve always been fascinated how businesses make their money.
He added: “I sat 13 exams and the PFA provided me with the financial support to pay for my fees - a huge help.
“I know a lot of lads struggle when they come out of the game because they have lived and breathed football all their lives and have known nothing else.
“But the PFA have so much to offer and I’d encourage any player to look at the professional assistance that the union can provide.
“In my case it was absolutely invaluable, and I’ll always be thankful to my union for their help.”
By Tony Dewhurst