Last night saw the return of fans to the Abbey Stadium to honour the legend that is Harrison Dunk in his testimonial game against his boyhood club QPR.
We won’t go into too much detail of the match itself (a 2-1 defeat for the U’s, despite the best efforts of Adam May to smash one in every time he got the ball within twenty-five yards of the goal) but instead want to look at the player who UTAS own Tom Walker described as ‘our best ever signing’ on the latest episode of the podcast.
Dunk joined United back in 2011, from Conference South outfit Bromley. As a 20 year old, Dunk decided to use his gap year from University to give professional football a shot at the Abbey, and he hit the ground running. A pacey left sided player, normally used by manager Jez George on the wing, Harrison was one of the few exciting things about those later Conference years.
Quickly dubbed by U’s fans (and others) as a non-league Gareth Bale, Dunk came in for rough attention from plodding Conference defenders, and suffered with a number of injuries, but still managed to clock up over thirty appearances in all but one of his seasons at the Abbey.
His first season was his most prolific with the U’s, scoring 7 goals, but goalscoring was never his biggest asset, especially in his later years as he found himself adapting to League football by playing a more defensive role, showing the intelligence and adaptability that is one of his biggest assets.
In 2013/14 Harrison was an integral part of Richard Money’s Promotion & FA Trophy winning side, clocking up thirty eight appearances as the U’s made it to Wembley twice, beating Gosport in the Trophy Final and Gateshead in the Play-Off Final. Dunk was one of the best players in the Conference that season and U’s fans were glad when he remained at the Abbey to start our second Football League era, despite interest from clubs in higher divisions.
Dunk’s best season at the club was arguably last season, as he adapted to playing at wing back, with Kyle Knoyle partnering him on the other flank they were devastatingly effective as the U’s surprised everyone by gaining promotion to League One.
Off the pitch Dunk is quiet, and has said himself that he prefers the attention to be on other players. His loyalty is also unquestionable, signing six contracts at the Abbey over his ten seasons and being a key part of this club for the past decade. It goes without saying our successes in 2013/14 and 2020/21 were in no small part due to his performances on the left side.
It’s rare for any player to clock up ten years at the same club any more, but even more so in the lower leagues where short contracts are the norm, so to have a player of Harrisons calibre play here for so long should be celebrated.
Biley, Spriggs, Dublin, Taylor, Dunk. After ten years, and hopefully many more to come, Harrison absolutely deserves his place in the list of genuine Cambridge United legends.