Barry Kitchener, Harry Cripps, Teddy Sheringham, Terry Hurlock, Tim Cahill, Neil Harris, Paul Robinson. There have been many players who whenever Millwall fans reminisce, will eloquently wax lyrical about how these are some of the greatest/hardest/most terrifying players they have ever seen at the Old and New Den. Players who we remember growing up watching wishing we could be, who we would cheer and chant their names from the stands and terraces.
But what about the others? The players who when we find old programmes in the garage, we would flip it over and have completely forgotten that these players played a part in successful teams of the past. The ‘Steady Eddies’ who may not have scored hat-tricks or hit crunching tackle every week, but those who were reliable and wouldn’t let you down.
The fourth addition to my Unsung Heroes section is one player who was a vital part of the famous FA Cup run of 2004. Although he missed the final through suspension, he did play a key role in the semi-final against Sunderland and lent his vocals to “Oh Millwall”, Millwall’s FA Cup song that criminally did not make the Top 10 Single Charts that week*. This is the former Millwall number 10, Danny Dichio.
*Saying that, I think it didn’t even make the Top 100.
Millwall’s version of the Littlest Hobo joined Millwall firstly on loan in January 2004 and was an instant hit at The Den, scoring 5 goals against Crewe Alexandra, Stoke City and his former club Sunderland in his first 4 games. The much travelled striker had a number of loans that would make the executives at Wonga blush, but The Lions were reaping the benefits of this player we had borrowed from West Bromwich Albion. An impressive array of clubs which included QPR, Sampdoria, West Bromwich Albion, Barnet and Welling United were matched by an impressive goal scoring rate. Millwall fans thought that this was maybe the tomorrow where the Littlest Hobo will want to settle down and that now at tomorrow, there’s no need to keep moving on.
Dichio signed on a permanent deal and asked the Cold Blow Lane to join him for a while. So we grabbed our hats, travelled light and enjoyed Dichio’s style. The goals did dry up slightly for Dichio, although he was ever present for the rest of the season and was a fan favourite due to the disruption he caused the opposition, allowing other players like Neil Harris, Tim Cahill and Paul Ifill to get important goals in big games. Dichio was also a big part in the famous 4-1 victory against West Ham United at home and as mentioned the semi-final victory that saw Millwall reach the FA Cup final for the first time. Dichio finished the 2003 – 2004 season for Millwall with an impressive 8 goals in 20 games with goals against Watford, West Brom and Burnley to go with his goals during his earlier loan spell. Discipline, however, was never on Dichio’s side with 7 yellow cards and 1 red against Nottingham Forest in those same 20 games. This resulted the striker experiencing the FA Cup final on the side lines in a suit and tie, rather than on the pitch in a Millwall kit.
Millwall and Dichio made a great start to the 2004 – 2005 season with three goals in three consecutive victories against Leicester City, Coventry City and Reading. The goal scoring was a road that never seems to end, where new adventure lies just around the bend and this new adventure was Millwall’s first ever European tie at home against Ferencvaros. The game finished as a 1-1 draw with our Littlest Hobo coming on for the final 10 minutes for Neil Harris. Dichio did not feature in the away leg which resulted in Millwall’s elimination from the competition, but he played a big part in the rest of the season scoring in victories against West Ham, Wolves and his last of 2004 against Ipswich Town on Boxing Day.
As with the season before, the goals dried up for a few games and discipline was a problem as he was shown a second yellow and subsequently a red card in an away defeat against Watford on New Year’s Day in 2005. Dichio’s first goal of 2005 came in an away victory against Cardiff City and these were followed by three more goals against Plymouth Argyle, Leicester City and Reading. The season ended with 32 appearances in all competitions for Dichio, with 10 goals, 5 yellow cards and 2 red cards being Danny’s contribution.
Danny Dichio left Millwall at the end of the 2004 – 2005 season, leaving The Den for Preston North End before joining the newly formed Toronto FC in the MLS in 2007. In his short time at The Den, Dichio played 52 games for Millwall in all competitions scoring a respectable 18 goals in all.
Our Littlest Hobo had settled down for around an 18 month stretch in South London, however there’s a world that’s waiting to unfold, a brand new tale no-one has ever told. He’d journeyed far but we knew it wouldn’t be for a while. Millwall was not Dichio’s tomorrow, but we were glad of his short time and when he decided that he’d just keep moving on, he had the fan’s blessing.