FC Isle of Man crest

All Our Yesterdays – When Lee met Matt

Through all the joys and travails of being a footballer, whether it be grassroots, semi-pro or fully fledged professional, there’s one aspect of the game that they all share; the people they meet in, and throughout the game.

And these people are numerous. Some become good friends, some remain acquaintances, and some would probably be happy to live life without ever seeing each other again. This latter point was certainly not the case at the Ravens’ visit to Stockport Town last weekend.

As this writer perused the fixture list last month, interest was aroused at the sight of the upcoming fixture on September 18. That interest was because Town’s manager Matt Jansen, he of Crystal Palace and Blackburn Rovers fame, was once a teammate of our very own Assistant Manager Lee Dixon at Carlisle United, over twenty years ago.

It looked like too good an opportunity to turn down to get these two old colleagues back together for an albeit brief reminisce (the FC Isle of Man Team Bus waits for no one). So, after the Ravens’ 3-2 victory we grabbed Lee and Matt for a quick trip down memory lane.

FC Isle of Man: So, Matt, Lee, I believe it’s been over 20 years since you have seen each other, since your Carlisle United days?

Lee Dixon: Yeah about 22/23 years.

Matt Jansen: It’s 24 actually. Nearly a quarter of a century. It’s been brilliant!!! (Both laughing).

LD: Seriously though, we’ve both gone down completely different paths since then and he certainly went down a different path to the one I did. But we’ve ended up on the same path here today.

FCIOM: Joking aside though, you were both part of a very talented Carlisle United youth team in the late 1990s?

MJ: Yeah, it was fantastic. It was in the era of the famous Michael Knighton, who had tried to buy Manchester United at one point but ended up with Carlisle United.

We had Rory Delap (he of Stoke City and the long throw), Paul Murray who went on to do well at QPR and Oldham, Paul Boertien (Derby County), and Lee Peacock (Bristol City and Swindon) amongst others. It was a really great squad that should have gone on and on but most of us were ultimately sold on. Carlisle (the football club) obviously suffered with it at the time, which was a shame because it was a good club with a great fan base.

FCIOM: And Matt, we obviously get told by Lee just how great he was as a player back then. What are your recollections of Dicko as a player?

MJ: Dicko was brilliant! Although he talked a better game than he played (laughing). Seriously though he was brilliant. He was a leader and I am surprised he didn’t go on and be a professional down the line. In the Youth set up we had, he was one of the better players in our team.

I always thought he was going to be a superstar, but I suppose he’s told you that as well (grinning).

FCIOM: And from your perspective Lee, Matt obviously went on to have a very distinguished career. Was it your impression at the time that Matt was always going to make it?

LD: Everywhere we went in the Lancashire League, and we played the likes of Liverpool, Everton, United and City, there was never any doubting Matt’s talent and Liverpool had the likes of Gerrard, Carragher, Owen playing for them at the time and Matt, and us as a team, always did well as a youth team against them.

If anything, it (the talent) took a bit longer to come through than the coaches wanted it to. But then he burst through in the 18 months after I left, and he erupted onto the scene at Carlisle and he couldn’t stop scoring, and he never stopped throughout his career after that and became one of the best players in the Premier League at the time.

MJ: He’s asked for £20 for that (laughing).

FCIOM: And one last thing a quick reflection from you both on today’s game.

MJ: It sums our season up. We’ve not had much luck to be honest with decisions and so on. But hopefully that luck will turn around. I’m happy with the performances over the last three or four games and hopefully we’ll build on that.

LD: We got a bit of luck today. Some games have really gone against us and not gone in our favour, but today it did. They were a little unlucky not to get a draw, although all in all we’re happy with the performance and we’re still learning a lot at this level.

We’re starting to see things from players that are good signs going forward and hopefully we’ll also get some of our injured players back soon. But the players that played today did themselves proud and to come out with three points is massive. Matt’s obviously happy with his performance but lost while we’re the other way and just happy to get the three points.

MJ: (Laughing) I’d prefer the three points and play poorly!

FCIOM: Thank you very much both.

And so, as the bus driver yelled at us to “get a move on”, Dicko and Matt hugged, shook hands and swapped phone numbers and looked forward to the return fixture at the Bowl.

From the moment these two former teammates were first reacquainted, some three hours earlier, it was like they had only seen each other last week, not 24 years ago.

As the preamble to this story says, footballers come across so many people. This writer thought that these two lads kind of liked each other.