‘We’re like Dumb and Dumber. He’s dumber!’ – Dunk and Duffy’s bromance

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Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy sit down for an arm-wrestle for Sportsmail


Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy are trying to think of a way to sum up their Brighton bromance when the England international comes up with an appropriate analogy.

Dunk: ‘Dumb and Dumber?’

Duffy: ‘Yes, Dumb and Dumber!’

Dunk: ‘That’s what we are.’

The pair pause, waiting to see who will beat who to the punchline.

Duffy: ‘He’s dumber.’

Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy sit down for an arm-wrestle for Sportsmail's photographer

Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy sit down for an arm-wrestle for Sportsmail’s photographer

Dunk gets the better of his great defensive pal, and Duffy laughs with embarrassment

Dunk gets the better of his great defensive pal, and Duffy laughs with embarrassment

Dunk gets the better of his great defensive pal, and Duffy laughs with embarrassment

The England defender is quick to lord it over Duffy, who has to listen to the gloating

The England defender is quick to lord it over Duffy, who has to listen to the gloating

The England defender is quick to lord it over Duffy, who has to listen to the gloating

Over the course of half an hour, as they continue to joke with one another, you get a sense of the strong bond these two Premier League players share. A perfect match on the pitch, thick as thieves off it.

Both 27 and 6ft 4in, Dunk and Duffy are what stand in Liverpool’s way. They are the Brighton rocks which Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino must climb over to score.

Liverpool won 5-1 when they visited the Amex Stadium last season, with Dunk scoring an own goal. That’s ancient history, he insists, because this is a very different Brighton team.

‘We’re a better side than we were then,’ Dunk says. ‘It will take a few more seasons to get rid of that “little old Brighton” tag. In three, four, five years’ time, we can be a different stature of club. We’ve got the set-up. You never know.’

Duffy takes over: ‘We want to compete against the best. We want to test ourselves. We know it will be a busy day against Liverpool but that’s why we’re here. It’s why we’re in this league.’

Duffy and Dunk have formed a superb central defensive partnership at Brighton

Duffy and Dunk have formed a superb central defensive partnership at Brighton

Duffy and Dunk have formed a superb central defensive partnership at Brighton

Dunk and Duffy’s importance to Brighton is underlined by the statistics. With them together in the Seagulls line-up, they have won 43.8 per cent of their Premier League games this season (seven out of 16). Without them, they have won zero per cent (none in five).

The secret to their successful partnership, they say, is down to the fact they are pals off the pitch.

They signed new five-year deals on the same day in October 2018, then kept a clean sheet at home against West Ham a few hours later. They sit next to one another on the team coach when travelling to and from games. They were playing pool when told it was time to come and do this interview.

‘Ask anyone, we’re always together,’ Duffy says, before Dunk adds: ‘It must be hard (to play with someone) if you haven’t got a good relationship. For us, it’s pretty simple, isn’t it?’

They are both throwbacks as central defenders, too. Nowadays, there seems to be an obsession with centre-backs being able to pass their way out of trouble rather than find Row Z if required.

Duffy's aerial ability - as displayed here against West Ham - is hailed by Dunk as a real strength

Duffy's aerial ability - as displayed here against West Ham - is hailed by Dunk as a real strength

Duffy’s aerial ability – as displayed here against West Ham – is hailed by Dunk as a real strength

Dunk tells it as it is: ‘We’re defenders at the end of the day. The attackers score goals, not us. We defend the goal. Our jobs are clean sheets. If we don’t get a clean sheet, we’re not happy.

‘You’ve got to pride yourself in defending first, then being good on the ball is a bonus. That’s the way you’ve got to look at it. If you don’t, you’re playing in the wrong position.’

Duffy joined Brighton from Blackburn for £4million in 2016 when they were still in the Championship. The duo only met as opponents once before becoming team-mates.

‘We played each other in the FA Youth Cup,’ Dunk says, before receiving a nudge in the side from a rather smug-looking Duffy. ‘He scored against me. He brings that up a lot.’

They are close on and off the pitch, and sit down here for an interview with Kieran Gill

They are close on and off the pitch, and sit down here for an interview with Kieran Gill

They are close on and off the pitch, and sit down here for an interview with Kieran Gill

That tie between Brighton and Everton was in January 2010 but four months later, Duffy’s life changed. The Republic of Ireland international realises he is lucky to be here at all, let alone playing in the Premier League.

In May 2010, the then-18-year-old was taking part in an Republic of Ireland training game when he received a knee in the ribs from goalkeeper Adrian Walsh. The accident knocked him out cold and sliced his liver open. He lost three litres of blood and doctors warned his father, Brian, that his son might not make it.

‘I didn’t know I could have died,’ says Duffy, who carries a six-inch scar across his stomach. ‘It was more about my family.

‘It was a scary moment, one which set me back a few years in football terms. The bigger picture was being here first. It doesn’t bother me anymore on the pitch.’

It certainly doesn’t, considering Duffy leaps for balls like no one else in England’s top flight. Indeed the statistics say he has made 91 headed clearances this season — and the next nearest is Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake on 76.

Their bromance is fueling good performances on the pitch, as Liverpool will find out next

Their bromance is fueling good performances on the pitch, as Liverpool will find out next

Their bromance is fueling good performances on the pitch, as Liverpool will find out next

‘I just let him head it! I let him do my job for me,’ Dunk says. ‘I pride myself on my defending but he’s a man mountain. I know if a ball comes in and I’m not winning it, he’ll be heading it.’

Dunk was a boyhood Brighton fan and against the United States in November, he became the first Seagulls player to feature for England since Steve Foster in June 1982. 

‘I was probably more buzzing than him, to be honest,’ Duffy says. ‘It was a long time coming. When he finally got it, I was buzzing, delighted…’

A few mock sniffles suddenly interrupt Duffy. ‘Stop it, you’re going to make me cry!’ Dunk jokes, before saying: ‘Now I’ve had a sniff of it, I’ve got my first cap, I want more. I have to show what I can do.’

Before heading back to finish their game of pool, Dunk and Duffy are told that in a recent article listing the Premier League’s best bromances, they ranked sixth.

They ask who beat them to the crown, and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were among those above.

‘It’s the handshakes!’ Duffy claims, before Dunk suggests copying the Gunners duo by coming up with their own dance routine for the next time they win. ‘I’ll just do the robot,’ he responds.

Keep a clean sheet and claim victory against table toppers Liverpool, and maybe even manager Chris Hughton might join in.

Brighton's defensive duo face a test against  Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah next

Brighton's defensive duo face a test against  Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah next

Brighton’s defensive duo face a test against Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah next

 



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