Hibs new boy Chris Dagnall has confessed to making one mistake before agreeing a short-term deal with the Capital club – not taking a look at their website.
If he had done so he’d have discovered head coach Alan Stubbs already had a surfeit of strikers to hand, in fact, eight in all. Had Dagnall taken the precaution of having a glance at the website he’d have discovered he’d be battling Jason Cummings, Dominique Malonga, James Keatings, Farid El Alagui, Martin Boyle, Henri Anier, Islam Feruz and Jamie Insall.
“Really?” was the 29-year-old’s reaction when his attention was drawn to the stiff competition he’s facing before adding: “I didn’t look at the website. That’s a mistake, I should have done that.
“There’s nothing I can do now I’ve signed. It’s competition for places and I’ve got to crack on and try and get in the team. Hopefully I will get my chance this weekend. I’m small, but I like to get in behind and cause havoc. I’ll work my socks off and hopefully grab a few goals.”
Stubbs promised to “pull a rabbit out of the hat” as the opening of the January transfer window neared and kept his word by snapping up former Leyton Orient hitman Dagnall despite intense interest from a number of English clubs alerted to the fact that his contract with Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters was coming to an end.
In doing so Dagnall has swapped the 70°F of the popular tourist region of south west India for a rain lashed East Mains, joking there hadn’t been a day without a downpour at Hibs’ training centre on the outskirts of Ormiston.
Even so, Liverpool-born Dagnall insisted he was looking forward to getting back to “normal” football after a three month stint on the sub-continent where he rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in world football, playing in front of crowds of 70,000, something of a surprise given that nation’s obsession with and passion for cricket.
Kerala Blasters were formed less than two years ago with former Indian cricket captain Sachin Tendulkar their owner, their home the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi where the head coach was former England Under-20 manager Peter Taylor and where Dagnall enjoyed a totally different way of life to that he’d experienced during a career in England which saw him play for the likes of Tranmere, Rochdale, Scunthorpe, Barnsley, Bradford and Coventry.
He said: “India was brilliant. It’s completely different style of football to anywhere else. But the fans were crazy, so passionate. If you went out in the street you’d be there for more than an hour. Everyone wants a selfie taken with you. They’d all get their phones out and snap away at you constantly.
“At our games we were getting 60,000 and 70,000 fans. They were just crazy, I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like our first home game. I went out a couple of hours before kick-off, as you do, to look at the pitch and the stadium was full – 60,000 with drums and it was like a carnival atmosphere. It was non-stop from then until after the game had finished.”
Despite the grip cricket has on India Dagnall believes everyone has been surprised at just how quickly football has become popular, aided no doubt by a clutch of “marquee” signings made by the local clubs.
He said: “I don’t think anyone knew if it would take off because they love their cricket over there, but they have really taken to it. They like their marquee players, the big names. There were Roberto Carlos, Nicolas Anelka and John Arne Riise.
“Our marquee player was Carlos Marchena who won the World Cup and European Championships with Spain. Then there were Florent Maluda, Elano, a lot of big names.”
Dagnall headed east despite Leyton, where he was top scorer last season, wanting him to stay on but knowing he’d be returning to Great Britain within a few months. He said: “It was only a three month tournament which finished in December. There’s only eight teams and they play each other twice.
“But it’s all over now and I’m back to normal football. It’s quite a change. I do miss the weather, I’m not going to lie. It’s not stopped raining since I got here two weeks ago.”