Cristiano Ronaldo
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Julian Dicks explains how he’d stop Ronaldo, thinks Guardiola is under pressure and talks next £60m move for Rice

| 09.09.2021

Julian Dicks made 262 appearances in two spells with West Ham during the 1990s and was one of the toughest defenders the Premier League has ever seen.

‘The Terminator’, now managing non-league side Heybridge Swifts, spoke exclusively to Ladbrokes at the launch of Saturday’s Southampton v West Ham 5-A-Side Bet.

How I’d deal with Cristiano Ronaldo

You can’t look past Cristiano Ronaldo when you’re talking about the signing of the summer. He’ll bring a lot of things to Manchester United; he is who he is, he’s been there before, he’s an exceptional player who looks after himself. I personally think we’ll get the same Ronaldo now as we saw 10 years or so ago. The fans absolutely love him, and I think we’re all just looking forward to seeing him in the Premier League again.

Cristiano Ronaldo

His arrival gives that whole squad a lift, from the moment he walks through the door at United there’s an expectation on him to perform, and he thrives on that sort of pressure. He’ll give the club a massive, massive boost.

If I was still playing, I’d love to have gone up against a player like Ronaldo, because I’d have just booted the s*** out of him. Luckily enough, when I played, I could do that sort of thing. I had no chance of catching some of the quick players I went up against, but I could smash them, so that’s what I’d do.

If I were playing now, I’d be sent off every four games

It was quite difficult back in my playing days to get a yellow card. If I was playing now, the way the game has gone, I’d be booked every match. I’d be getting sent off every four or five games.

This is what really winds me up in today’s game; when you’ve got players, coaches, fellow professionals, trying to get the opposition sent off. For me, that’s disgraceful. Don’t get me wrong, I love football and I wish I was still playing, but I wouldn’t be able to cope with that. Trying to get another player sent off? It’s ridiculous. Whoever does that sort of thing should be punished by the FA, because it’s not right.

I’ve had it out with a few players – even as a coach – in the tunnel after games. You can hear them scream when they go down and you know they’ve not been touched. If you’re injured, I understand it, but these players roll around screaming, then all of a sudden they get up and run off. It’s a joke.

Managers running down the touchline, as well; that’s another one. It’s the same as trying to get someone booked or sent off. It’s disrespectful. Valerien Ismael did it against Peterborough before the international break, and for me that’s disrespectful to the other manager. I understand they’ve scored in the last 10 seconds of the game and nicked three points, but you shouldn’t be doing that. As a manager you shouldn’t be doing that.

Pep Guardiola under a lot of pressure

I just can’t look past Man City for the Premier League this season. For me, it’s going to more or less be the same old teams at the top of the table come the end of the season. You’ve got your Man Citys, your Liverpools and Man Uniteds; but if you asked me to name one team in particular it has to be City, with the players they have.

You can never rule out Man United. They haven’t had many good seasons of late, but they’ve brought in some great players who are going to add so much to their already strong squad. I just think Man City are too far above their rivals.

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City

That being said, they’ll still need a bit of luck. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you need a bit of luck in this game. There’s a lot of pressure on Pep Guardiola. If City start dropping points, that pressure mounts up and up. It wasn’t so long ago they lost two or three games on the spin; that isn’t going to happen many times because they have too many good players, but it’s something Pep has to be aware of. I can’t see another team touching them in the title race though, to be honest.

I’m not surprised Declan Rice is still at West Ham

I was there when Slaven Bilic gave Declan Rice his debut at West Ham, and obviously he’s come on leaps and bounds since we were there, but you could always see he was going to be a good player.

The thing I like about him is how simple he makes the game look. He doesn’t try and do anything out of the ordinary. You need players like that, especially in that holding midfield role.

He’s a regular for West Ham, we know that, and he will become a key player for England over the next few years as well.

We saw him as a very young lad, so I wouldn’t say we could see him going on to be a leader, but you could always see he was mature for his age. He just kept things really simple; even in training. He knew his position, he knew his role and he just stuck to that. That’s why he’s progressed at the rate in which we’ve seen; he hasn’t allowed himself to become distracted, even with the transfer talk surrounding him. He’s a great lad, though; a really nice lad.

I’m actually not that surprised he’s still a West Ham player. For me, West Ham is a big club. They have a great stadium, although I’d rather they were still at Upton Park, and with the way they’re playing at the moment, you’d like to think they can fill that stadium week-in, week-out, which is what they need. A lot will depend on what Declan wants; if he wants to challenge for trophies every year, then maybe he will move. But at the moment he’s still young, and he’s still learning his game. He knows he’s going to play every week at West Ham, which is a massive bonus for a player at his age.

If he was to go to Manchester City, United or Chelsea, does he have that guarantee? I’m not so sure. But as a footballer, you want to play every week. Declan is worth whatever Mr Gold and Mr Sullivan want for him. You hear things like £70-80m – for me that’s just ridiculous, for any player, but that’s the way the world is at the moment. In today’s market, Declan Rice is probably worth around £50-60m, because he does everything that’s asked of him, and he does it well. Those players are worth their weight in gold. I’d like him to stay at West Ham for another cople of seasons to progress further and really help the team push on.

Nowadays it can’t all be about money for footballers, especially at that level, because they’re earning enough. Declan is earning more than enough at West Ham. He’s probably just thinking about playing football, and that was the feeling I got when we were there. He’s one of those players who’d go over the park with his mates in the afternoon and play with his mates. That’s how I see him; he just loves the game.

One of the biggest problems you get with players these days is that search for consistency. So often you’ll have top, top players who can’t sustain that level on a regular basis; you’ll maybe get one good performance in three. With Declan it’s three in three; you look in the papers at his ratings, he’s consistently an 8 or a 9 out of 10. That’s exactly what you want in a player.

Arsenal players should follow David Rocastle’s example; he never gave me a minute of peace

Arsenal are a big club, and I was lucky enough to play at Highbury – but they’re a completely different team these days. I look at them, and they just don’t work hard enough. Yeah, they have some good players, but you have to work hard. You watch the Tottenham v Man City game, and both teams worked their socks off for the whole game. Both sets of players went all out in that game, and then I look at Arsenal and they don’t work anywhere near as hard.

As soon as they cross that line, it’s down to the players. The manager can put his team out and shout his instructions, but he needs his team to play ball and work hard, and for me they don’t.

It’s about making the right decisions at the right time, and being aggressive. I’m not talking about going around and kicking people; I mean winning your headers, winning your tackles, your second balls and your knock downs. For me, Arsenal don’t do that enough.

Arsenal are a big, big club. When Arsene Wenger was there, they were doing it. They were always in the top four or five, and they always had players that would work hard. You’ve got one or two there at the moment, maybe, who really put the effort in. But you can’t build success on that.

Arsene Wenger

Unless they improve significantly, they’ll finish this season in the bottom half. It’s as simple as that. They need to recruit in the right places; you know, you’d like Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Steve Bould. You’d die to have those players at the club now in defence, because they very rarely conceded goals. They were so disciplined in doing what they needed to do. But now you’ve got the left-back attacking, the right-back up the other end of the pitch trying to score goals, and then when it breaks down, they don’t get back quick enough. Look at Man City for example they’re the best team in the Premier League right now. Their players work their nuts off. If there was any club you could probably excuse for not working hard it’s them, because they’ve already won the title. But they’re hungry for more success, and so they don’t stop. I don’t see that with Arsenal.

I was lucky enough to have played against David Rocastle, God bless him, who was an honest player. He wasn’t exceptionally quick, but he was a very good player, and if I ever went on the overlap, he’d be following me. He never gave me a minute of peace. He wouldn’t just stand there and leave me; he’d be following me. Do the Arsenal forwards really bust a gut like that now? No. Times have changed at Arsenal, but the principles should still be the same; you have to work hard, and if you’re not doing that, you’re not good enough.

Fans aren’t going to put up with it for much longer, and at the end of the day, fans make or break you as a manager. They have done for many years. I can’t see Mikel Arteta being in charge for much longer, to be honest with you, if things don’t improve drastically.

Hotel beers with Bilic; how I went from his team-mate to his coach

I’ve known Slav for the best part of 25 years now, back when Harry [Redknapp] brought him to West Ham. I didn’t know anything about him, other than that he was a centre-back. I think his debut was against Tottenham and we won 1-0. He was a good player who read the game well; aggressive, good in the air, good on the ball, he had a lot of great attributes and we just clicked.

Like with most players that come in, especially in those days, you welcome them, you take them out, have a drink, have a fag, and we did the same with Slav. I ended up rooming with him, and we both used to drink and smoke. We just got on really, really well. The relationship went on from there until he moved to Everton – I think that was after a couple of years at most. We played against each other and swapped shirts, but that was about it.

Slaven Bilic

He was my room partner for about two years, though, and back then you could smoke and drink so that’s pretty much what we used to do together. We got back in touch when he got the West Ham job; his agent gave me a call and said Slav wanted me to be a coach. He took me there because I’m associated with West Ham, I know one or two people didn’t want me there but I won’t mention them. It was just like coming home for me, it was superb.

I remember the first game in the dugout at Upton Park; it was just magnificent. Sitting in that dugout, surrounded by fans; it was an incredible place. The stand-out moment for me has to be the last game at Upton Park, against Man United, one of the biggest teams in the world. We went behind a couple of times and won 3-2 in the end. It was just unbelievable. We used to stay in a hotel in Canary Wharf and usually it would take us 20 minutes to get to the ground. On this night it took us an hour, because we just couldn’t get to the ground through all the people. We had to park up and walk to the ground. Listen, I’ve played at some big stadiums, in front of the Kop for a season, but that day was unreal.

European spot is achievable for West Ham this season

I don’t think I could put West Ham’s recent success down to one thing in particular. It helps that they’ve got good players who have desire, it helps that they’ve got a good manager, and that combination is great. Now it’s about keeping players fit for the duration of the season. It’s going to be a long campaign for them, so it’s important they keep Michail Antonio fit and firing.

I’ve played for West Ham and we’ve always been a club that sometimes does well one season, then not so good the next time out. If West Ham are in the top seven, it will have been a very good season for them. They should be looing at those European spots, but you need a bit of luck along the way.

Obviously they need to strengthen, in particular probably up-front, in the New Year. Hopefully they do, and hopefully they kick on. David Moyes deserves to be backed in the January transfer window, and if he does, I think we could see a repeat of last season.

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Warren Barner