Wilson’s Wisdom: Warrior Dunne’s absence is a major loss

James Dunne   Picture: Joe Pepler
James Dunne Picture: Joe Pepler
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Wilson’s Wisdom is the weekly Sports Mail column written by sports reporter Steve Wilson

James Dunne’s knee operation on Tuesday was a big blow for Pompey.

As yet, we don’t know how long he will be out for.

But there are fears it could be a lengthy spell on the sidelines with cartilage damage.

Of course, Blues fans will be keeping their fingers crossed it’s not that serious.

They have taken to him quickly since his arrival from Stevenage in the summer and he’s added something to the team that was definitely missing last term.

All good teams need that bit of nastiness about them.

Off the pitch, Dunne is polite and quietly spoken.

He’s not a hulking great physical specimen and he’s not especially intimidating either. Not like 
Roy Keane anyway, although 
I’ll save that one for another 

On the pitch, however, Dunne is a snarling pitbull who looks like he would give his granny a dig if it helped his team win a game.

Okay, I’m sure he wouldn’t actually hurt his own grandmother but it seems a long time since Pompey had a midfielder who relishes a juicy 50-50 challenge quite as much as he does.

He’s shown himself as the heartbeat of the team and those challenges that can make an entire stadium wince in unison will be sorely missed while he’s sidelined.

Hurry back, James.

In the most recent seasons, the enforcers have been conspicuous by their absence, although that may also tell you something about Pompey’s midfield. Perhaps it also illustrates the way the game has evolved.

Yes, we all enjoy those moments of extraordinary skill.

But as long as it doesn’t do any lasting damage, who doesn’t enjoy watching a full-blooded challenge?

So who else have we enjoyed watching kick lumps out of opponents.

Michael Brown had his frequent moments of thuggery but tended to err on the side of the more sneaky misdemeanours.

Richard Hughes is also fondly remembered for a glorious revenge destruction of Matthieu Flamini against AC Milan in the Uefa Cup after the Frenchman had tagged him first.

Going further back, Martin Kuhl and Kenny Black all enjoyed the physical side of the game, while Gavin Maguire was never afraid to mix it when he operated in midfield. He deserves extra praise for famously threatening to chin Matt Le Tissier in a masters game.

But it would be hard to look beyond three clear stand-outs when it comes to those who would be in the hard as nails category.

Mick Kennedy, Mick Tait and Jimmy Scoular are often the first names to be mentioned when it comes to discussions on Pompey’s tough guys and it’s hard to argue with that.

While they had the aggression, courage and were ready for a scrap at every turn with anyone who wanted it, they didn’t just go around kicking people.

Those who saw them at their peak will testify they had bundles of ability, too.

Dunne may not be at their levels of ferocity and intimidation.

But then again, who is?