JOHN ‘DIXIE DEEHAN
West Bromwich Albion – September 1979 – November 1981
In September 1979, ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson, the then manager of Albion, needed a striker to compliment the likes of Cyrille Regis, Ally Brown and Tony Brown. He looked no further than 4 miles down the Witton Road, to Villa Park, to pay £424,000 for the services of John ‘Dixie’ Deehan. John, who had joined Villa as a youngster back in 1973, signed professional terms for Villa in 1975, and made his name at the club scoring no fewer than 51 goals in his 130 plus appearances. ‘Dixie’ made his a debut for Albion that same month, on 22nd September against Spurs at White Hart Lane, in a 1-1 draw.
John grabbed his first goal for the Baggies in the 2-0 home win over Manchester United, quickly followed by another ‘home’ goal in the 4-0 thrashing of Southampton. Unfortunately things didn’t go as he would have liked in his time at the Hawthorns. He netted only five goals in his 50 appearances for the ‘Baggies’, before he left the midlands for East Anglia, and Norwich City, where his prolific goal-scoring form returned, with a haul of 70 goals in an amazing 199 appearances for the ‘Canaries’. After leaving the club for Ipswich town, Manchester City and Barnsley, ‘Dixie’ returned to Carrow Road, as first, Assistant manager, then manager, in 1991 replacing Mike Walker. Management. Coaching and Scouting positions were to follow at Wigan Athletic, where as Manager he guided ‘the Latics’ to the Third Division championship in 1996, Huddersfield Town, Sheffield United, Aston Villa (as coach), Ipswich town (as scout) and Northampton Town, where he was subsequently appointed Director of football in 2004. Historically, ‘Dixie’ on joining Albion, became the first player in 70 years, to make the switch form Villa Park to the Hawthorns. The last being George Abner Harris in 1909.
1979-80-John Deehan(far right) with mates Statham Robson Barnes and Owen
To bring us up to date, I asked the former Albion ‘striker’ what he was up to at this moment in time. “At the moment I’m working with Burton Albion, and I am very pleased. I have just seen the results for today. The fact that Barnet have been beaten at Accrington, and we’ve managed a point at Southend, means that we are safe, and will be playing league football again next year. With a game to go, until the end of the season that is very pleasing. To be fair we’ve had quite a successful season really, by also getting through to the 5th round of the FA Cup. True we have been at the wrong end of the league since the turn of the year. But we have been able to prolong the careers and experience of players like the Darren Moore, who has been absolutely fantastic for us, and thankfully we have secured the future of the club for next season, and the pressure is now off for the last game. I’m the clubs Chief Scout, and it my job to try to help them bring some new players in. We have had one in from the Villa, a boy called James Collins, and we have got Scott Malone, and Sam Wynn, in from Wolverhampton Wanderers. So what we would really like now is a player in from West Bromwich Albion, and hopefully we can get that next year.”
1979-20.10-John Deehan celebrates his goal-v-Southampton
What is like working with a workaholic like Darren Moore, I asked ‘Dixie’. “Darren is absolutely fantastic. He runs the training sessions basically, and if your name is not down, then your knocking on his door. He really is an important part of our club, and a great pleasure to work with.”
Have you been to the hawthorns this season I asked. “No, it’s the first time I’ve come to West Bromwich Albion this season. Obviously my loyalties are a bit divided, because I signed for the Villa as a boy, before moving here with Ron Atkinson. There is something not quite right with the Villa at the moment. They do not seem to be ‘Gelling’ at all, I have to say.
They couldn’t have got a better chance to get a result, than they had today. With the opposition going down to ten men, Paul Sharner being sent off, the worst scenario should have been to at least get the draw, but to get beat, it’s a bit unbelievable really.”
1979-First goal celebrations-v-Manchester United
You must be happy that the result at least guarantees Albion’s Premier-ship status, I suggested. “Yes, I’m really delighted for everyone at the club. Cyrille and I were just talking about it realistically. I think a lot of people would say that Villa are the biggest club in the Midlands. That’s probably just because of the size of their Villa Park ground and how many people the stadium can hold. But actually in truth there is nothing better than being the premier club in the midlands area, and at the moment that is West Bromwich Albion. They are the furthest up the league and leading the fight for the clubs in the midlands. I don’t realistically want to see any of the clubs from this area drop out of the premier league, although I’m sure there will probably be a lot of ‘Baggies’ fans that would like to see Wolves go down. Having said that there is nothing quite like a Black Country ‘derby’. A game to really enjoy, so from my point of view, I hope they get a result of some kind tomorrow to give themselves a chance.” (referring to Wolves trip to Birmingham City).
Norwich City were another of your old sides, and they are doing well, and could join Albion and Villa in the Premier, I pointed out. “Yes, it looks like Queens Park Rangers are there already, and my old side Norwich could be joining them if the results go their way on Monday. To be fair I think Paul Lambert has done a fantastic job at Carrow Road. If they fail to go up automatically, and have to be happy with a play off place. I think they can win the play-offs. They have a captive audience over there in East Anglia. The ground will be packed every week next season. They have a 28,000 ‘all seater’ stadium and they sell about 26,000 season tickets. The other 2,000 are left because they need to keep them back, to accommodate the travelling away supporters. It is a fantastic club, but it is ‘out on a limb’. Quite simply, if you play for Norwich, you have got to go and live there haven’t you.”
I thanked ‘Dixie’ for his time, and of course coming to see us. “Listen, it’s been fantastic. I’ve had a brilliant day, and everyone at the club has been great, and the meal was fantastic by the way. I’ll definately have to come again!!”
John Deehan, you will always be welcome at The Hawthorns. Come again soon.
John Deehan/Laurie Rampling – April 2011