David Chick had the footballing world at his feet.
On the books at hometown club Norwich City at the age of ten, before captaining England at schoolboy level alongside the likes of England’s greatest-ever marksman Wayne Rooney at the age of fifteen, it looked inevitable that a long career playing at the top level was to follow.
“It was a bit of a dream when you’re a kid obviously, because it’s the local club,” candidly affirmed Chick when speaking to Kick360.
“It’s the club where we used to go and watch live games and you sit there and go I want to play on that pitch one day. I was ten or eleven, once you’re in the system from a young age, you don’t know too much different.
“I was very privileged to be able to do [play for England Schoolboys]. Obviously again, I didn’t play much, I only got the one cap. The squad for the Victory Shield, it was a squad of about 30 players to play over the space of that tournament, the biggest name that everyone would know would be Wayne Rooney.
“He was in that squad, he was far superior to everybody, even at that age. Not long after that, he was playing in the Premier League, probably a year or so after he had broken through and became a massive star, so he was the standout.
“There were other good players in there, most of them went on to play some form of professional football at some level, but he was clearly the one that everyone would know and he went on to be a bit of a legend.”
Unfortunately for Chick, for a multitude of reasons his once astronomical potential was never realised, leading to his release from the East Anglian outfit without appearing at senior level.
“I had a couple of key injuries in a year which I probably would have got some opportunities, killed the momentum which made me stand still while others progressed, that was difficult.
“The main factor was when my contract extension was up to move into pro, they got promoted to the Premier League, playing in the Championship and playing in the Premier League are two different things, being good enough for one doesn’t mean you’re good enough for the other.
“The club probably then went in a different direction with its recruitment, they brought in three or four senior players that had already played Premier League football. It probably wasn’t the time to take a chance on a young kid as such. It probably wasn’t in the manager’s plans to take a risk on a kid at that point.”
After failed trials at Peterborough United, Cambridge United and Cheltenham Town in England, Chick bounced around various non-league sides, featuring for the likes of Bishops Stortford and AFC Sudbury before leaving England to join Hume City as a player in 2012.
“I was looking to move once I’d realised I’d left Norwich and came out of there, there was a few opportunities but I didn’t have the same ambition as I previously had. The effect of not playing at that top level, I lost a little bit of interest.
“Cambridge United was a great opportunity that I probably didn’t take as much as best as I should have done, and the Peterborough one was where I realised that I wasn’t going to make enough of as much as a living from the game that I need to, bit of bad luck with a manager change, and then I decided to go non-league and coach.
“While I was in non-league, I was subject to a pretty bad tackle which left me with quite a serious knee injury, and that kept me out of football for a long time. The time I was returning to play, the season here is obviously different, it wasn’t a good time to return [in England], after the window and there was no preseason, whereas over here, the season was about to kick off.
“I spoke to a friend I had playing out here who put me in touch with an agent. I spoke to a couple of clubs, and Hume seemed very organised, they seemed like they wanted to bring me over. It felt like a great time to move, start a new chapter in my life, I was little unsure, but I figured that I could always go back in non-league and get my coaching job back with Norwich in the community, so I took a bit of a risk and it’s a good risk, I’m still here.”
After retiring from the game, a career in coaching was clearly an aspiration, a hope inspired by his former Norwich academy coach Aidy Boothroyd, who also managed the England under-21 for five years and led Watford to promotion from the Championship in 2005-06.
“He sort of helped me grow up more than anything else, he was a very good coach, very detailed but it was more that he helped me understand what it was like to behave as a footballer as such. I went from being the naughty kid to being the captain within a year under him, and that helped me because that was holding me back in some of the areas like the national team, that helped me back there.
“He helped me grow as a person emotionally, taught me what to do and what not to do, and if I did step out of line, you knew about it. He had a big influence on that and he was one of the reasons I wanted to coach, watching him help people so much, that’s probably the best part of coaching and I wanted to do the same.”
Chick slotted in seamlessly, progressing from head coach of Hume City’s under-16 side in 2014 to securing the role as manager of the first-team in 2017, whilst overseeing multiple cup runs including a famous run to the 2015 FFA Cup semi-final whilst coaching beneath Lupce Acevski.
“I started in the under-16’s, moved to the under-21’s and then I was helping with Dean [Hennessey], so some of the cup runs, I was not really a main part when ‘Lou’ was in charge, more sort of pushing the youth players through. The club had some really good nights, we all felt very much together, so it was a good time.
“They gave me the first opportunity to be a full-time head coach, so for that I’ll forever be grateful, so that was a really nice moment to stand there and be the head coach for the first time in your career, so I’ll remember that.”
After leaving Hume for Pascoe Vale midway through 2019 in an attempt to prevent them from relegation from the top-flight in Victorian football, he set about gaining promotion in 2021 after the cancellation of the 2020 season.
This dream that was agonisingly dashed when the 2021 season was curtailed. Pascoe Vale were second at the time of cancellation, and five points clear of third-placed Northcote City, which had them to regain their status in NPL Victoria once more.
“It’s heartbreaking. You could see all the work that everyone put in, and I don’t just mean the coaching staff and the players, everyone around the club. Everyone was swimming in the same direction, everyone was doing whatever they could in difficult circumstances to try and achieve something.
“You almost had two preseasons, the players coming in, doing all these programs away and staying dedicated and professional, so it was heartbreaking because you saw all the work and to have nothing to show for it at the end, that’s not football.
“At the end of football, there is a winner and a loser, we all accept that and not to get that felt quite empty. We were in a nice position, there was no guarantees we would have made it, we still had some tough fixtures, we weren’t mathematically out of the region by any stretch. We felt like we had a really good chance, so I was gutted, the players were gutted, everyone involved was pretty flat.”
Despite missing out with the C.B. Smith Reserve outfit, Chick was not to be denied a shot at Victoria’s top table, replacing the retiring Sam Elmazi as the new head coach of the Dandenong Thunder.
“We’ve been on the track a week and a half now. I’m extremely thankful, it’s an amazing opportunity. I wasn’t unhappy at Pascoe Vale, I was having a good time there but the opportunity to coach in the top league with a club of that size doesn’t come around every day so I feel very privileged to take the job. I’m really excited, working really hard, managed to maintain some amazing players.
“We’ve got some great staff and the club is really supportive, so it’s a happy place at the moment which is what we want. There’s a lot of work to do to be ready to compete at this level, it’s a good level with lots of strong teams. We’re enjoying it, that’s the main thing, we’re enjoying it and we’re quite ambitious.
“I want to play finals football. I think that’s what every club at this level wants to do, you want to be in a position at the end of the season where you can win a trophy. I only do this because I want to win something and make some memories, and whether that’s achievable or not is a bit too early to tell.
“That’s what we’ll be aiming to do, and if it’s not right now, hopefully it’s in the near future but what I will say is, we’ll be doing our absolute most to make that a possibility.
“When there’s a few games to go, I want to be in contention to be playing a final or a semi-final, I want to be in the conversation and that’s the aim. It’s a tough game, it’s a tough league, we’re new, we have to integrate some new players in with the old players, but if we don’t aim for that then why are we doing it?”
It’s safe to say that the new regime at George Andrews Reserve promises high standards. While what happens in Dandenong in 2022 remains uncertain, rest assured that David Chick and his charges will not die wondering.
Image Supplied: Dandenong Thunder