Michael Duberry was talking at a Play With A Legend Event, and if you’ve ever dreamt of playing football with your childhood hero, Well, now you can! Play with a Legend (https://t.co/eO2DKRBHsH), brings together football fans and their idols for a memorable football game and a post match pint where you can hear tales from the dressing room. It’s perfect for a stag, birthday, corporate or charity event and with over 80 former professionals involved, there’s sure to be someone you’d like to play alongside.“
Who was the first one to give you the nickname Dubes?
“The first time I was a schoolboy at Chelsea and someone said Dubes. There is no real story to it, that’s it.”
You won the League Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and the Super Cup. Which of the finals was most memorable?
“The Super Cup. The League Cup, I was ill. I had a bad stomach all day. The Cup Winners’ Cup I had Bell’s Palsy — which is like a mini stroke — so I had to keep holding my mouth. I had it in the build up for two months. The physio came back to say there was nothing wrong with me, so winning the Super Cup and beating Monaco in the final. But for all reasons the League Cup was my first ever win, and being a North London boy driving past Wembley every day.
“The whole build up back in the day and going to Wembley was special. Then walking up the steps and actually winning something.”
Best ever XI you played with?
“Nigel Martin as goalkeeper. Right back, Gary Kelly. A good mate of mine as well. Centre halves: Rio and Marcel. My left back would be between Ian Harte and Graeme Le Saux. In midfield I would go David Batty, the most underrated player ever. The hardest player ever.
“Ruud Gullit. He was a ball player that was strong, so he would be in my midfield. Gus Poyet also gets in, he was good friends with Maradona so would tell us Maradona stories, so that was good.
“Up top, Mark Hughes would be my centre-forward. Old school approach, always battering centre-halves and even though he was good on the pitch.”
“My left midfielder would be Harry Kewell because on his day at Leeds he was unplayable. Strong, fast, skillful.
“In behind Sparky, you’d have to play Gianfranco Zola.”
What was David Batty like?
“When I was in Leeds I met a few naughty boys, but they told me that David Batty was the hardest kid in the school — hard as nails. He was the best player – a dream for a centre half to have in front of you. He’d get the ball and nothing bothered him.
Why are Leeds not in the Premier League? There must be something fundamentally wrong.
“I think it’s a few things. A normal club comes down but could go back up, but there’s stability issues underneath it. Leeds — when they were up there — their financial instability had a huge impact. The only other club I’d say, that have been through similar is QPR and that was close to being a bit silly financially. And Leeds have never recovered, so the Leeds you see now is because of that.
You must wonder why Leeds have not attracted a sugar daddy, though. You would have thought that would be the biggest opportunity…
“Yeah, I think everyone who isn’t associated with Leeds will think ‘why hasn’t someone come along and thought oh, I’d like a piece of that’ but you know what? All these people with money that buy clubs want to buy a club in the Premier League. They don’t want to buy a club in the Championship because that’s a gamble, they want to buy a club that is in the Premier League. They wouldn’t even want to buy Aston Villa now because they’re going to be a Championship club. They buy it for the advertising, don’t they? The audience is that much smaller compared to the Premier League, so Leeds won’t attract anyone unless they get to the Premier League. They get to the Premier League, even on a shoe-string budget, someone will buy them. It’s sad but that’s how it is.”
Whose fault was it that Leeds fell from grace?
“At the time they were signing players and we were like ‘we don’t know anything about that.’ And then we get told the club was £60m in debt. What can you say? We as players obviously had no control over that. I remember the time when we had this big meeting and every professional at the club was there — young and old — and we had the PFA come down. They said ‘the club wants you to defer some money to help the club.’ We were all sitting down saying everyone, except the young lads, earning over a certain amount of wages will agree to defer a week’s wages and that’s fair enough.’
We told the PFA to go to the club with that and they came back saying ‘you lot are greedy, you should defer 60% of your wages and we’re saying ‘what do you mean?’
“They were just gambling, thinking we’re going to be in the Champions League every year, so we’re going to spend this. And we didn’t so it just went bust really. It’s a shame really, but would you swap it for the memories that everyone had? It’s that sort of thing but for the club it’s a shame.”
The effect on the whole City was massive. Not being in the Premier League, the night-time economy was really affected. You’d go out and there was no-one in town.
“It did change. It was a shame. It was one win away from a legacy. If we had won something — which was close — but you’re up against teams with experience. That’s football.”
Who was the biggest animal?
“Drinking wise we used to have an A Team. We got the idea from Mark Hughes because at Manchester United there used to be an A Team and B Team. It was a drinking school, so at Leeds we took it on. The A Team drinking school was me, Rio, Dom, Robbie Keane, Gary Kelly, Steve McPhail, Seth Johnson. They were like the main ones.
Did you live in Leeds with the other boys?
“Yeah, I loved Leeds. When I first moved I was in Woodlesford. They put you in Allerton Hotel, and I thought ‘quality, straight down the M1 from home’ so I found somewhere near there. Then I moved into town, above Park Road. I loved Leeds.”
But if you all drank a lot there did you worry about people seeing you getting drunk when you have to train and play games?
“It was not everyday. We used to go out Tuesday, say if you had Wednesday off, and you’re sitting in an Italian restaurant around the corner from the training ground. You sit there and everyone is thinking… then there’s that little nod, we got a bottle of wine and would then go into town. And then, on a Saturday we would go to The Living Room into their VIP room.
Which was your favourite away ground that you loved going to as a player?
“I always liked White Hart Lane. It was a nice ground, being a North London boy and Highbury too as it had an old school fill.”
Who was the least favourite manager you played under?
“Kevin Blackwell when I was at Leeds.”
and what a great note to end on, he was my least favourite Leeds manager until Steve Evans rocked up! Many thanks to Play with a Legend (https://t.co/eO2DKRBHsH) for the interview and also to Michael Duberry for being a good sport.