Learning process continues as Chey Dunkley puts the punch into Sheffield Wednesday

HOLDING court at Sheffield Wednesday’s last press conference, Chey Dunkley acknowledged: “I am a talker. I think everyone knows that.”

Willing student: Chey Dunkley. Picture: Steve Ellis

His team-mates most definitely do.

Alongside his qualities as a defender, Dunkley is a strong-willed character and the sort of leader who comes in handy when you are trying to get yourself out of a Championship hole.

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He could be heard bellowing out the instructions – like all good centre-backs worth their salt surely should – in the Owls’ vital midweek win over Wycombe. Expect him to be at it again in the weeks ahead.

Yet as far as Dunkley is concerned, there is much more to him than meets the eye.

He may be a chatterbox, but he is also a bit of a brainbox with a ‘thirst for knowledge’ to paraphrase a line from famous Sheffield band Pulp.

Dunkley, who celebrates his 29th birthday today, is a graduate in Sports and Exercise Science from Loughborough University and has an inquiring mind.

During his rehabilitation from a fractured tibia and fibula sustained at previous club Wigan almost exactly a year ago, Dunkley – who did not make his Owls debut until December – tapped into the experience of the club’s medical staff to further broaden his knowledge base.

It points to a driven, diligent individual who is constantly striving to improve himself. It can be no bad thing.

Do not expect the questions to stop from the Midlander, who won the League Football Education’s annual Mike Johnson Award for producing the best NVQ portfolio among apprentices across the country during his time at Hednesford in 2010.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “I ask many questions and they are probably not expecting me to ask them. That has come to my advantage and I just like to learn.

“I ask the medical team different questions regarding different things such as speaking about muscles by its actual term rather than just saying a generic one.

“It has helped me with a lot of things such as nutrition and the injury I had and understanding the body. The degree that I did was applied sports science, so there was a lot of discipline with it. It will maybe opens doors later on after football.

“Even though I am 28, I am still learning about the game and I like to learn. I like to open doors and do courses.

“I have talked to Rhodesy (Jordan Rhodes) about doing coaching badges and Uefa A and B etcetera.

“I have been in football all my life from the age of six and it will be criminal for me to not even think about doing those type of things.

“I wouldn’t say I want to be a coach, manager or chief executive, but it is good to have different qualifications as it sets me up for life after football because we are not always footballers.”

Dunkley’s own back story and ability to overcome setbacks suggests that he is likely to make a good career out of whatever field he chooses to go into after he hangs up his boots.

He successfully combined full-time education with part-time football with Hednesford to rebuild his playing career after being freed by Crewe.

An upward trajectory subsequently saw him achieve highs at Kidderminster, Oxford United and Wigan. His desire for further accomplishments at his current club is fervent. But first things first.

Dunkley observed: “Success is not in a straight line. I have had disappointment in football and it is the way you respond from it. There was Crewe, going through the non-leagues and working my way back up through the leagues and getting promoted.

“It is not (just) my story. Many footballers have similar stories to that and have gone through the route like myself.

“One thing that has been consistent through my path has been working hard and being a fighter and keeping going.

“That is what has got to be needed to keep this club in the Championship.

“I came here with the intention to get (eventually) promoted out of the Championship. But it will mean everything to stay up; not just talking about the history and stature of the club, but it needs to stay up in the division to move forward next year and punch.

“Just staying up – I am not speaking out of turn – is ultimately not what the club is about. We should not just be staying up in this division, but pushing for promotion. But we have to respect the position we are in and the division.

“As it stands, we are in a relegation scrap and have to be talking about trying to stay up. We will do everything we can to make sure we do.”

A smart lad from a humble background, Wolverhampton-born Dunkley has not been short of guiding influences in his career to date.

He has also made it his business to stay in touch with those managers who have helped him along the way.

Dunkley is the sort of individual whom managers do not forget in a hurry and will recall in a good way. Successful dressing rooms also plainly need people like him around.

On his own influences, he said: “It is many characters and not necessarily just footballers.

“But there were certain players I played with. There was a player called Josh Gowling, who I still speak with.

“He is actually manager of Hereford and I played with him at Kidderminster and he was one of the closest people.

“He was influential in me learning the trade on the field and then there are all my previous managers who helped me on my way.

“I speak to all my previous managers where I can. Not necessarily about football, but personal things and I keep in touch. It is better to have more relationships in football.

“There’s obviously mum, dad and the family and we are all close knit there. They make sure I have key values and am humble. Many people have helped me on my journey.”

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