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Dublin: 0°C Friday 16 April 2021

'You’ve got to enjoy the highs because there aren’t as many as there are lows'

Irish midfielder Gary Dicker, currently a free agent, talks openly about the difficulties of securing a contract in the English Football League.

Dicker spent five months at Rochdale last season.
Dicker spent five months at Rochdale last season.
Image: EMPICS Sport

GARY DICKER IS well aware of how quickly your fortune can change in football.

12 months ago, the Dubliner was preparing for a Championship play-off semi-final with Brighton Hove & Albion. After a scoreless draw with Crystal Palace in the first leg, the Seagulls lost out 2-0 and Palace went on to clinch the final Premier League place.

Manager Gus Poyet was promptly suspended and subsequently sacked by Brighton (famously while live on BBC) and former Stockport County midfielder Dicker found himself without a club when his contract expired last summer.

“The past year has been hectic,” the 27-year-old tells “You’re 90 minutes away from the Premier League, then two months later you’re out of contract and looking for a club.

“You go from one extreme to the other but that’s football. You’ve got to enjoy the highs because there aren’t as many as there are lows.

“It was a weird one leaving Brighton. Gus Poyet left at the end of the season as he had problems at the club. Everyone knew about what was going on and he couldn’t help any of the players out.

“I’d probably still be at Brighton if he was the manager but he ended up leaving and it was the first time in my career that I’ve been let go by a club.”

Dicker, a former Ireland U21 international, looked set to seal a move to Millwall after undergoing a medical at the Championship side but the deal fell through late on.

With the Football League already underway, he was intent on finding a club as soon as possible.

“I just needed to play football and I didn’t care where I was playing,” he says. ”The longer you’re not playing, the quicker you’re forgotten about.

Everyone was panicking over the financial fair play (FFP) rules and when a club like Chelsea has around 30 players out on loan, many clubs would prefer to take a loan player as they’re paying next to nothing for their wages.

“They’re thinking ‘why would we sign someone when we can get one for a fraction of the price?’. That is just how it has gone the last year or so. Some of the money people are being offered, players wouldn’t take it in the League of Ireland let alone in full-time football over here.

“I’ve had friends that have played 500-odd games and have had several promotions but are now scrapping around trying to get a contract.

“With the money that they’re offering in League Two, I can’t see how people can afford to live. I know a few lads who have gone and played for clubs in the lower half of League Two and you’re just thinking ‘how can they pay full-time players that?’”

In September, he agreed a short-term deal at Rochdale. The five-month spell in League Two served its purpose as Dicker got games under his belt before John Gregory offered him the chance to join Crawley Town for the remainder of the season.

It suited to be back living at home with his young family but the move didn’t exactly work out as well as he had hoped.

“I didn’t really enjoy it there as much,” he explains. “Don’t get me wrong, there were some good lads there like Mark Connolly and Billy Clarke.

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“But it’s a Conference club in League One and that sums it up really. Some of the stuff that happened there wouldn’t happen at a League of Ireland club. For instance, travelling to away games and there is no water or food on the bus. Little things that usually get done.”

Soccer - npower Football League Championship - West Ham United v Brighton & Hove Albion - Upton Park Dicker is tracked by West Ham's Mark Noble during his time at Brighton. Source: Joe Giddens

Currently a free agent, Dicker is relying on New Era (whose clients include Rio Ferdinand and Swansea defender Ashley Williams) to find him a new club.

There has been some interest and a number of reports that Shaun Derry could be keen to take him to Notts County.

Despite the uncertainty, Dicker knows it is part-and-parcel of the profession and is keeping a positive outlook.

“It comes with football. People don’t see this part of football. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I’ve got some great memories. I have played at Wembley, I’ve won leagues and earned promotions but there is a lot of other stuff that goes with football and it is cut-throat.

“It’s like any job though. Back home in Ireland, I’ve lot of my mates were out of work. Most footballers are used to it. Obviously you want to be sorted but hopefully it will be a good summer and I get it wrapped up soon so I can concentrate on getting fit and playing well.”

Dicker turned down an offer from Norway in the past but if a deal beyond the UK was to arise, he would be open to relocating. A return to Ireland for the former UCD man isn’t on the cards at the moment, however.

“There was a scout who used to work for Brighton who mentioned a deal in Norway but it probably wasn’t right at the time as my daughter was only young.

I definitely wouldn’t rule it out though. I’ve seen lads move away and it might suit my style a bit better. I know Roy O’Donovan and Joe Gamble are over in Brunei but I’m not sure if I’d got that far.

“I’d prefer to go to an up-and-coming league in Europe. I spoke to Shane McFaul a few times and he was in Finland and has gone back. He seems to like it and says the standards is good but I’d have to go and have a look.

“I would like to live back home at some stage but not for the time being. I keep an eye on the league and a few good players back there. I wouldn’t rule it out but I’m not looking to go back right now.”

This afternoon, Dicker travels to Wembley to support former Cherry Orchard midfield partner and good friend Stephen Quinn, who is hoping to earn a starting role for Hull in the FA Cup final against Arsenal.

“I’ve got a few mates coming over and I’m going to meet up with Quinner’s brothers and that. We’ll probably fill half a section with all of his family!”

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Ben Blake

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