HARDMAN footballer Julian Dicks doesn’t do regrets or apologies.
Branded an “animal” by former Tory minister David Mellor and red-carded eight times, the legendary West Ham defender was never one to shy away from trouble in the 1990s.
While other players from that era talk about toxic dressing rooms or bemoan its boozy culture, Julian prefers the no-nonsense approach of the past — and pulls no punches in his new memoir Hammer Time.
It’s an ode to the days when football had a rough edge, and he has no problem with his old boss Harry Redknapp throwing a plate of sandwiches against the wall in rage, ex-manager Lou Macari calling him “fat” or for players getting into punch-ups in training.
About his former teammate John Hartson kicking his colleague Eyal Berkovic in the head during training, Julian says “these things can happen.”
Off the field he ran naked through a hotel corridor on England duty after being pranked by Paul Gascoigne, branded a team mate with a hot iron and had the plaster cast on his leg cut off so he could get into a nightclub.
Julian, 54, doesn’t even regret playing on through a knee injury which has left him in so much agony that now he can’t ride a bike with his little daughter.
Ahead of the release of his book, Julian, who also played for Liverpool and Birmingham City, tells The Sun: “Back then you were concussed, it was, ‘It’s OK, carry on’.
“You got cut, you got elbowed, my eye socket was cracked in four places. Nowadays it isn’t like that.
“When I played it was the best time. We could go out, we could drink, we had fun.”
Julian, originally from Bristol, learned from a young age that the football pitch was no place for whingers.
In a youth game when he was 12 he told his dad Ron he was coming off due to a swollen hand, and was ordered to get back on the pitch.
Just a couple of years later the talented youngster was living in digs in the West Midlands away from his family, and at 16 he started training with senior pros at Birmingham City, who would “kick s*** out of you”.
Having joined West Ham in 1988, Julian became an instant fan favourite on his debut for pole-axing a winger with a “sly elbow”.
In the same year he was called up by England’s under-21s — and made the mistake of offering to be Gazza’s room mate during a tournament in Toulon, France, when Dave Sexton was manager.
Julian says: “No one put their hand up and I went, ‘Yeah, I’ll share with him’. F***ing wrong decision.
“He would wake up in the night and put his a**e on my face.
“He put about 20 firecrackers around the rim of the toilet and they started going off and I thought it was a bomb.
“I’m naked and I am running down the corridor and he’s just stood in the door, laughing his head off.
“It was funny, although it wasn’t at the time because I was standing in front of Dave Sexton and other people.”
Julian, who married in the same year and had twin daughters Katie and Jessica, didn’t obey the rule of being in bed by 10pm when he was on international duty. He says: “I was 21 years old. F*** off, leave me alone. I was never going to be that person.”
Instead, Julian recalls, he would be drinking Jack Daniel’s whiskey and smoking cigarettes the evening before a game.
He says: “I trained when I was p***ed sometimes. But not during the game, because I loved football too much.”
On a stop-over in Singapore on the way to a pre-season warm-up in Australia with West Ham, Julian was barred from a nightclub for having his leg in plaster.
He was undeterred, and recalls: “I went all the way back to the hotel and got the club doctor to cut it off with a carving knife so I could get in the nightclub.
“From what I can remember it was a good night.” And it turns out Julian wasn’t a much better room mate than Gazza.
He confesses to scalding team mate Mark Ward with an iron so hot that bits of his skin were left behind.
Julian suspects it was his reputation for being too aggressive on the pitch that cost him the chance of winning a senior England cap.
Former England boss Glenn Hoddle had been in charge of Chelsea in 1995 when Julian was accused of stamping on the head of his player John Spencer during a match.
Julian insists it was an accident.
He says: “I remember John coming back on with a bandage and he said to me, ‘Did you mean it?’ I said, ‘Mean what?’
“And he said, ‘Julian, I’ve got eight stitches in my head’, and I said, ‘If I meant it you’d have f***ing 28’.” The public outrage was so intense that even Julian’s daughters were affected.
He says: “My kids got bullied at school. That crossed a line.
“What I did on the football pitch shouldn’t interfere with my family life, they were six or seven years old.
“It’s wrong. I went down to the school and sorted it out.”
There are very few lines that are uncrossable for the West Ham stalwart. As far as he is concerned, John Hartson was unfortunate to have Sky TV cameras recording the Hammers training session when he kicked team mate Eyal Berkovic in the head in 1998.
Julian says: “These things can happen. Players have a fist fight in training.
“There were fisticuffs and people throwing punches in five-a-side. John regrets it, but unfortunately Sky was there.” He also accepts managers giving players the hairdryer treatment — a furious telling off — with Harry Redknapp showing a tougher side than the one viewers saw when he was on I’m A Celebrity in 2018.
Julian says: “We came in, we’d got beat 4-0 by Southampton. Don Hutchison went, ‘Who wants salmon sandwiches after a game of football?’
“And Harry went, ‘F***ing salmon sandwiches’, and he just lugged them at the wall.
“The managers back then threw pots of tea, cups of tea, stuff like that. It was a common thing.
“These days you’d probably lose your job for that. But if you lose 4-0 you should be able to b*****k the players and they should be man enough to take it.”
Unsurprisingly, Julian has little time for players rolling around after receiving the slightest touch, or being booked for thundering into tackles in the modern game.
He says: “I remember playing against the Crazy Gang (Wimbledon FC) and we had a 21-man brawl.
“It’s a passionate game. A lot of the passion has gone out of the game. Now you can get booked for using too much force.
“To me, that’s the biggest load of b*****ks in the world.”
Julian says he would have been “embarrassed” to have been floored by another player and would have got up as quickly as possible, even if he had been in agony.
But in 1990 that proved to be a mistake when he went against the advice of a medical assistant and played in a game, despite carrying a serious knee injury.
He lasted for just 38 minutes of the match and recalls: “When I done my knee the first time and I was told I was going to be out for 14 months I felt physically sick.
“I could have threw up all over the surgeon.
“I ended up bordering on being an alcoholic, I felt sorry for myself. I’m going down the pub drinking, going home, going down the pub drinking and doing it all over again.”
In 1997 came a recurrence of the knee injury — and when Julian was ruled out for the rest of West Ham’s season, The Sun’s then Sports Editor Paul Ridley couldn’t resist writing Swollen Dicks Out as the headline.
The injury led to Julian’s retire-ment aged just 31 a couple of years later, as well as permanent pain.
He says: “Basically my legs are f***ed. It stops you doing everything. I can’t ride a bike. I can walk into town with my daughter, but I can’t go on long walks.”
Julian, who was divorced from wife Kay in 2001, became a dad for the third time two and a half years ago when his partner Lisa gave birth to daughter Eliyanah Grace.
He says of her arrival: “It was a shock because my partner was told she could never have children. But it was a good shock.” Julian says he never felt down about losing the routine of training, mainly because he hated running.
Since his playing career ended he has tried dog breeding, owning a pub, playing pro golf and managing other football teams — until a few months ago he was assistant manager at Watford.
But he admits he would prefer to be playing than standing on the touchline yelling at footballers.
Even so, he insists he wouldn’t turn back the clock to escape that crippling injury.
He says: “People say, ‘Would I change anything?’ but no, everything I got, I got through football. This might be the down side of that, but it is what it is.”
- Hammer Time: Me, West Ham And A Passion For The Shirt, by Julian Dicks, is published on Thursday.