Anatomy of an own goal: Richard Dunne - (2021)

Updated: 23/10/2021

December is a time for clip shows, running through the highlights – or lowlights – of a memorable year, decade or lifetime. With that in mind, it felt apt at this time to focus on a one-man own goal highlight reel, football’s own Gil Gunderson: Mr Richard Dunne.

Dunne turned bad luck into an art form during nearly two decades in the Premier League, hitting that sweet spot of being good enough to play regular football but hapless enough to invariably find himself in close-up clips with his head in his hands.

The Irish centre-back didn’t just set the record for the most own goals in the competition – he obliterated it: Dunne’s 10 puts him three ahead of his closest competitor, and four clear of the closest active player.

When you hit those heights, it’s fair to assume you’ve covered a few bases in terms of goal variety, and Dunne certainly fits the bill there. His 10 – just shy of the 13 he scored in 600 games at the right end, we might add – were a rich tapestry which would make Mr Bean proud.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy comes from the fact that the first own goal, the one which set this all in motion, almost didn’t go his way at all. Yes, it was funny, and yes, it had all the comedy hallmarks we want from an own goal, but there was more to it.

Dunne wandered into trouble like a child failing to spot a nearby seesaw, seemingly powerless as the ball rebounded off his shins like a hockey puck and dribbled goalward beyond David James – although Rob Earnshaw, sprinting like his life depended on it, very nearly caught up to claim the goal himself.

There was no doubt about number two, though, scored in the Manchester derby. Dunne approaches the ball like an artist preparing to stroke his paintbrush across the page, only to find out post-execution that his act is closer to the amateur ‘restoration’ of a priceless painting of Jesus in Spain. The best thing about it? He doesn’t seem to twig he’s done anything wrong until a couple of seconds after the ball lands in the net.

He was hardly going to wait too much longer to demonstrate a classic of the genre, the famed “I got this, I got this… I don’t got this”. It arrived against Wigan Athletic. Few have been able to show such calm and such grace while putting the ball into one’s own net, but Dunne always was a special talent.

When the time came to bring up number five, the Irishman knew another boring stretch or mistimed header wouldn’t suffice – he needed to go big or go home. Or, to be more precise, he needed to go big and go home.

Generally speaking, drilling a volley towards your own goal is unlikely to ever pan out well. At best, you’re conceding a corner. At worst, well…

We were a little worried that, following Dunne’s move to join relegated QPR in 2013, his Premier League own goal days were behind him. He wasn’t getting out that easily, though: the veteran helped the Rs back into the top flight, just so he could make sure he went out on his own terms. Not only was there time for one final own goal, but it arrived in what might be the stupidest match in Premier League history.

With three minutes to go in QPR’s game with Liverpool at Loftus Road, a Dunne own goal was the only goal of the game. However, perhaps realising this would be his final contribution of that variety, he felt the need to pass on the torch. After Edu Vargas and Philippe Coutinho exchanged strikes at the right end, Steven Gerrard put through his own net to hand the hosts an injury-time equaliser.

The game wasn’t finished, though, and there was still time for Steven Caulker to pop up at the other end – yes, his own end – with the winner for the opposition. As the centre-back recognises the gravity of his contribution, you can almost sense him wanting to turn to his centre-back partner and ask, in hushed tones, “Did I do good, Richard?”

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