ON the odd occasion Michael Dixon shoots and misses, someone will invariably observe that ‘Your dad would have scored that!’.
Perhaps so, because Paul Dixon had a habit of scoring goals. Now BBC Radio Newcastle’s non-league football expert, Paul was a prolific striker with a host of clubs, not least the Newcastle Blue Star side which won the FA Vase in 1978.
But far from droning on about the past, a father is keen to see his son emulate him tomorrow, when Michael’s Dunston UTS side take on STL Northern League rivals West Auckland Town in this year’s Vase final, at Wembley.
And a son is determined to make dad proud.
“I know what he’s achieved, he doesn’t go on about it, but as soon as you start playing non-league football you realise,” said Dixon Jnr, a renewable energy engineer.
“When I came to Dunston he was still playing on a Sunday morning and (Dunston founder) John Thompson would tell me what a good player my dad was.
“John says he’d do nowt all game, then he’d score the winner, so anytime I miss a chance I get ‘Your dad would have scored that!’.
“He was at Blue Star, the Spennymoor Town of their day, paying top money, and some of them went on to play at much higher levels. So he must have been half decent.”
The same goes for Michael, and although a slow-to-develop physique restricted his opportunities in professional football, taller, faster, stronger, he is making up for lost time in the amateur game.
“I was at Sunderland and Newcastle as a kid, Ipswich Town and Southampton, then had two years at West Brom with John Trewick,” he said. “But I was small, I was 16 and 5ft 4in and eight stone. I was competing against lads who were built like men.
“It’s ifs and buts, but if I had been my height and weight now, then, I might have had a chance.
“Instead, I went back to school to do my A-levels, but won the All England Cup with St Cuthberts at the Hawthorns.
“Then I went to university, I did sports science and media studies, then did some work for Newcastle United’s website and edited the football highlights for BBC Radio Newcastle.
“I enjoyed it but it was Saturdays, and the thought of not playing football was too much, so I got back involved.
“All the time, dad was always full of encouragement, and he still is. He speaks a lot of sense. For the Peterborough (North Star, quarter-final) game and the two (semi-finals) against Staveley MW, I couldn’t hear anybody, I was just so focused.
“But when we went down to 10 men I heard him. I think he downed BBC tools and started shouting some advice to me.
“Everyone knows he’s been there and done it, and he’s been really proud for the last few weeks.”
Dixon Snr was planning a trip to the races today, while Michael completed the final preparations for tomorrow with a training session at a nearby Premier League training facility – and the latter is determined to enjoy his own experience of the home of football.
“He took me down to watch Bedlington Terriers in 1999 and Tow Law Town the year before, and you wonder if you’ll get your chance,” he said.
“It’s the pinnacle, and as soon as you get to the latter stages you just want to go all the way.
“I know Gary Ormston very well, and with him doing it last year (with Whitley Bay) and my dad having commentated on the final, the temptation’s there to find out what it’ll be like.
“But I don’t want to know too much, so I haven’t spoken to Gary too much either.
“I don’t want to be told that you do this or that. I want to go and experience it for myself, and just enjoy it.
“We’ve had a tough few weeks, and for all West have had a similar run, they seem to have coped better.
“But we’re confident, and on a big pitch I think we’ve got a bit more pace throughout the team. If I had to match the two teams up, that’s probably the area I’d say works in our favour.
“We might also have to change our style a bit. We’re not like Whitley or Spenny, who try to bring it out from the back and play.
“West are probably more similar to us, they want to play in the opposition half so they try and get it forward quickly.
“But on a massive pitch we’ll both have to try and play, so it should be a good game because of that.”