NAIROBI, Kenya- The sound of thousands of fans screaming his name on Saturday May 24, 2008 at the iconic home of English football- Wembley Stadium-in London was deafening.
The man who was showered with adulation and entered football folk role that day was none other than Dean Windass. He single-handedly made history by scoring a stunning volley that took Hull City FC to the promised land of the English Premier League for the first time ever.
Born in Hull on April Fool’s Day in 1969, Dean’s parents John and Doreen tell him that he started kicking a football from the tender age of two. So it was a no brainer what he wanted to do when he grew up and the rest as they say, is history.
An perfect specimen of the old school footballer if there was one, Windass walked through his history with SportPesa News on Thursday evening having been part of the advance team from Hull who jetted into the country on Tuesday ahead of the Tigers’ monumental match in Kenya this weekend.
Record SportPesa Premier League (SPL) champions, Gor Mahia FC, will take on Hull City at the Kasarani Stadium on Sunday at 3pm local time (+3GMT) in an encounter that best encapsulates his football career; staggering.
As a young boy, Windass was a Hull supporter like many other lads that call the English city and unitary authority that is home to over 260,000 inhabitants founded in the 12th century home and regularly attended matches at the Boothferry Stadium in support of the Tigers.
“When I was two years old, my parents say I used to kick around a football in the garden.
“Sometimes people ask how do you become a footballer, well sometimes you’re just born with the talent and I consider myself very fortunate,” the 49-year old former striker said.
“Growing up a Hull fan as a kid was incredible. I would go watch the games with my dad from when I was six years old and from then I had a dream to play football, to play for Hull,” he added.
Windass’ journey to becoming one of the best players to ever grace the pitch for his home town team that now sits in the second-tier of English football, the Championship was not always easy.
To make it in the professional ranks in a country that rates among the best paying nation for football talent takes loads of guts, something Windass admits he had plenty in supply.
“As a footballer, it’s not just about playing. Everything you do off the field matters as well.
“You have to be mentally strong and if you are and committed then you will have a great career. If you’re weak then you just fall by the wayside. So I’m fortunate that I was a strong character,” Windass advised.
He started his career as a trainee for Hull until he was released by the Tigers and before he got a shove in the right direction, Windass played non-league football and did some handiwork until 1991 when he was brought back to Hull by coach Terry Dolan.
Throughout his entire playing career during different spells with his home club, he scored 82 goals in 205 matches for the Tigers, making him the club’s fifth all-time top scorer.
Without a doubt, the goal that will forever be the talk of the town is his superbly struck volley in the 38th minute of the 2008 Football League Championship Play-off Final against Bristol City FC.
Seasoned Frazier Campbell, who is part of the travelling team coming to play Gor, picked Dean out with a lovely pass and the goal that followed was a thing of absolute beauty.
As he ran with both his hands in the air in jubilant celebration, neither he nor the thousands of Hull fans watching knew that would be the goal to punch their ticket into English top flight for the first time in the club’s history.
A jaw-dropping achievement considering the Tigers were founded in 1904 and Windass’ goal brought an end to 112 years of waiting to dine at the top table of the game in a country credited with inventing football.
“All the hard work you put in throughout your career all comes down to one defining moment that changes your life.
“As soon as Frazier picked me out with the pass, I had to make one decision and I am grateful that it was the right one,” Dean reminisced.
“It was obviously a way more special moment for me because I’m from Hull. I was born and raised there and the fans were in harmony with me, it was a very special day.
Throughout his 21-year professional career, Dean celebrated two promotions playing for numerous clubs both in England and Scotland.
He played with dozens of huge names in football and played against even bigger ones.
The now Hull Club Ambassador admits that the toughest defender he ever had to go up against was Arsenal FC’s former captain, Tony Adams.
“Tony was a great defender. It was always a challenge to play against him whenever I did.
“That’s the thing about playing in the Premier League, you don’t find bad players. There’s only the best of the best,” he added.
The father of two became Hull’s oldest –ever scorer after his last Premier League goal at the age of 39.
Windass has two sons, Josh (24) and Jordan (19) who he had with ex-wife, Helen, whom he married on July 31, 1993. She was a police officer from Hull.
Josh followed in his father’s footsteps and plays professional football for giants Glasgow Rangers in Scotland.
He has scored 12 goals in 53 appearances for the club and looks as though he will go on to become an amazing player just as his mentor.
“Josh is doing very well at the minute and that gives me joy. I’m very proud of both my kids, they’re great,” he said with a smile on his face.
Windass’ career featured stints at Aberdeen, Oxford United FC, Bradford City FC, Middlesbrough FC, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and Oldham Athletic FC.
At Bradford, fans of European giants, Liverpool FC, who will play Spanish aristocrats, Real Madrid CF in the final of the UEFA Champions League later this month, will not forget the stocky striker, who maintains his shape and appetite to kick a football despite retiring the game.
The date, May 14, 2000, the last day of the Barclaycard Premier League (as the EPL was known then) and Bradford, under Paul Jewell, needed to beat the Merseyside titans to survive relegation.
That offered Windass the perfect moment to flirt with football destiny, catapulting hime from a journeyman forward into legendary status when he helped them avoid the drop miraculously when they beat Liverpool 1-0 through a David Wetherall header.
He forced then Liverpool keeper, Sander Westerveld to a smart save in the dying embers of the match but there was no need for any further goals as he completed the season as Bradford’s top scorer with 10, in staging one of the most memorable escape acts in Premier League history.
Windass had endeared to Bradford supporters having been signed by Jewell in March 1999 when he refused to go on holiday to be fit for their Premier League campaign having helped them finish second in the first division to earn promotion.
In the far removed world of the rich and pampered modern day Premier League stars, Windass’ work ethic and commitment to the cause is part of what has made him a living legend and model professional in a country where football is a national staple.
What’s even more compelling is that he was never relegated as a player.
“All clubs I played for felt like home for me and I’m very grateful that the fans liked me. Initially it was hard to leave Hull for the first time in my life when was Josh was two years old,” he begun.
“I had to go to Aberdeen and start a new life, meet new people and make new friends. It all turned out great and I can only look back at it and smile because it was successful.
“I never got relegated as a player as well and for that fact I feel very fortunate,” the humble 5ft 10in Hull legend said.
Windass professes the greatest ever English player to grace the Premier League is Paul Gascoigne and rejoices in the fact that he got the chance to play against him, with the two eventually developing a remarkable bond as friends.
When asked to name his greatest ever five-aside team, he scratched his head in deep thought for a bit before finally making up his mind.
He names Arsenal great David Seaman in goal and just as is in his nature, the rest of the players are all attackers.
Gascoigne of course, Nigerian sensation Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, Everton and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney and the man himself, Windass complete his select side that on paper, would give any full team a run for their money.
“Gazza was a character and he became a very good friend of mine. I mean, to watch him on DVD’s and then have the honor to play against him was surreal,” he underlined.
Though not a pretty good cook, he occasionally whips up the culinary delight he knows and doubles up as his favorite food, Spaghetti Bolognaise.
“As a footballer, all you eat is things like rice, beans, chicken and jacket potatoes.
“Spag-bol (as he calls it), is one of the few things I can cook,” Windass chuckled.
Windass has been the Tigers envoy for just under four years and he values the position so much so that he refers to it as a privilege.
“It’s an honour to have the chance to represent the club as an ambassador and I’m grateful to the owners for giving me the opportunity to give back to my home club even after retirement.
“Many don’t do what players used to do in the past, in terms of giving back to the community by going out to schools to present trophies and give certificates,” the retired forward who is as enthusiastic as his days when he terrorised defenses mused.
“These days it’s coming back in clubs such as Swansea City FC, Everton FC and it’s very important,” Windass stated.
He was part of an elite team of coaches from Hull who came to Kenya in November 2016 to offer his knowledge in selecting a SportPesa All Stars team that would eventually travel to the KCOM Stadium to play in a historic friendly.
The Kenyans lost 2-1 but left England with much needed exposure.
Gor’s Humphrey Mieno scored the consolation goal for the All Stars and will now have another go at the Hull players when Dylan Kerr’s charges take to the field on Sunday.
“It’s great to be back in Kenya, it’s been a while. The last time I was here, I left knowing that I have left a big family behind.
“Most of the Kenyan players still WhatsApp me to check up on me, which is absolutely amazing. The talent in this country is immense and I’m glad I got to see some pretty great players,” Windass offered.
“I’m very excited for the game, though it’s been a long season for the lads I’m pretty sure they will put on a great show. I hope nobody gets injured and the game has a couple of goals.
“It should be a great one!”
The Hull playing unit arrive in the country on Friday evening and will hold a training session on Saturday before the big kick-off the following day at the spanking new pitch at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
There is plenty for Kenyan footballers to learn from the retired striker who despite hit the peak of his sport by sheer grit, humility, commitment, discipline and above all, the gift that continues to give even after earning a potful of money.