This piece was first published in our Nutmeg collaboration in March, before injury sadly deprived Lyndon Dykes of his place at Euro 2024.

Even as a proud Doonhamer, I’d concede few would cite a move to Dumfries as the best thing that’s ever happened to them. Born 10,000 miles away, Lyndon Dykes has a point. It began his love affair with Scotland and put the Aussie on the path to becoming a national hero. I caught up with him in Hounslow. 

He is a big lad. But not as big as you might think. 

“I always remember the first day when I went in there [Livingston] and David Martindale turned around to me and said ‘Big man, I thought you were bigger than that!’. I’d played against Livi at Queens and I bullied Declan Gallagher – make sure you put that in there – so he said that he signed me off that.” 

For those watching at home, the camera adds 10 pounds, of course. The camera may even add a couple of inches to his height. Perhaps that explains the dissonance. Does the camera add the mischievous grin on his face after leaving, say, Luke Shaw crumpled in a heap at Wembley? Or the fury that flashes across it as the referee separates the fighters as the bell rings on his umpteenth round with Aymeric Laporte? The guttural roar he lets out after putting one past Orjan Nyland in Oslo? 

On a miserable February day at QPR’s training centre, a laidback, smiling Aussie tells me he gets it a lot – people often think he’ll be taller than he is. My only logical conclusion is that Lyndon Dykes the player actually is bigger than Lyndon Dykes the person.  

Like Clark Kent ducking into a phonebooth, the Gold Coast native strolls into the dressing room at Hampden and the Caledonian berserker flies out. Bolder, brasher, more outspoken, ready to bring the ruckus and woe betide whichever ball-playing centre-half grown in a Petri dish at one of Europe’s pristine academies is in for 90 minutes plus change of choosing violence – some escape with three points, few escape with their lunch money. Tattoos cover his arms, torso and creep up his neck. His haircut changes to suit the skirmish – bleached, blue, rainbow-coloured, shorn to a skinhead for battle. 

Through a combination of that on-field persona, my lifelong Queen of the South support and it being a wee while since I’ve done an interview, I was quaking a bit on the flight down to Heathrow, and felt suitably daft as the guy who walked into the nondescript conference room in Hounslow turned out to be nowhere near as intense.  

Slumping into his chair in an oversized hoodie after a training session, Dykes warms up early on after hearing a Doonhamer accent and the next hour is a pleasure, for me at least. His hair has grown out a bit. My lunch money is safe. Wearing shinnies for an interview was perhaps overkill. The QPR press officer can keep his cards in his pocket. 

The Herald: Lyndon DykesLyndon Dykes (Image: Paul Stuart)

Later in the afternoon, Dykes will show us the tattoos, in a photoshoot that made me question whether my Wednesday morning Bellahouston functional fitness class alongside the supporting cast of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is sufficiently blasting my abs. A claymore entwined with a thistle runs down his right to mark his Scotland debut, “old soul, young heart” is emblazoned across his chest. Some have meanings, some don’t. There is space to be filled. He has plans for more and chuckles that it probably is an addiction at this point. 


He’s not your average player, but does he see himself as much of a maverick? 

“Yeah, I’d probably say it’s a good word,” he nods. “A lot of people say to me that on the pitch I’ve got a good presence about me, which is nice to hear. That’s what I like to do, I like to help the team out where I can.  

“But for people that don’t know, away from the pitch I’m definitely quiet and quite a simple and chilled guy. I just take a back foot sometimes and assess things, see what’s happening and then if I need to step in, I step in. I’ve got my family and a nice country house would be nice and then I’m good to go.” 

Family comes up a lot during the chat. Dykes has had a few run-ins with mine during his time in Dumfries – my cousin, then a professional footballer himself, hung about with him a fair bit during their half a season as team-mates at Palmerston, my mum, then a midwife, helped take care of his son in Cresswell labour ward and my dad, a crackpot, believes he owes us a set of golf clubs that he borrowed from the house for a round. “Who’s your brother again? Liam? Ah right, small world!,” he laughs. “I’m sure I gave them back mate!”   

His mum and dad are back in Dumfries, but he and his family are settled in Camberley. There’s one eye on the clock this afternoon as he’s on taxi duty for his son’s judo practice later. Tiime turns six at the end of the week and as a treat they’re headed out to Paris for the PSG game against Rennes. “He wants to see Mbappe so before he leaves at the end of the seasons we’re going to go take him there,” said Dykes. “He loves football. He plays at Ascot United on a Tuesday. Loves FIFA as well. 

“He’s coming over for the Euros as well. You know what they’re all like, obsessed with all the big players. Not their dad though! He’s just total football at the moment.” 

A thought crosses my mind listening to the Aussie in Dykes’ voice – what accent does the wee man have? “We’ve got a full mixture in the house with mine, Victoria’s is Scottish and his is England,” he smiles. “He’s got the posh accent going on so we’ll need to get him back up to Dumfries.”  

It’s well-documented that Dykes himself was a different story at that age. Up until he was 14, the youngster was a promising rugby league player. After a couple of concussions, an uncle set him on the path to football.  

“I’ve always been sporty – I just loved to do everything,” says Dykes. “Growing up in Australia’s a lot different compared to here. You have much more sport that you could play and I could just play anything and I loved it. Obviously when I was little rugby, basketball, football, tennis, you know, everything that I could do.  

“My dad was a motorcross rider and mum played badminton, my uncles and that were all into football. Obviously my sister’s a gymnast [she won two gold medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne]. So yeah, it just kind of ran with us. Luckily, football ended up being the best thing for me.” 

Alex Morrison, a Scottish teacher at Rabina High in the Gold Coast, recognised his talents and nurtured them, and he particularly enjoyed the futsal programme – “That was the best part about school because the rest was rubbish… but I wouldn’t tell my son that!”   

When his mum moved through to Canberra, Dykes opted to stay in the Gold Coast as he was still at school, moving in with some friends at 17 – “some Turkish and Serbian guys I grew up with. They were good times” - and getting a job in sports brand BLK’s factory doing heat sealing. 

“They do a lot of rugby teams, AFL teams. I put numbers on the back of jerseys, logo prints on strips, school bags, stuff like that. 

“It is crazy to think about now. It’s something that I wouldn’t change because it built who I was. I had to work. I moved out at a young age and had to pay bills early doors. I wasn’t the best worker but it gave me skills that for my life going forward just helped me out.” 

His unorthodox route meant that Dykes was a late bloomer in football, missing out on the academy system altogether, and struggled to break into the pro game in Australia. After a brief dalliance with Dumfries on holiday visiting his grandparents the year before, in 2016 the chance to live in his parents’ homeland and the natural athlete’s physical qualities made Scotland the perfect move. He swapped surf, sand and seagulls for the Solway Firth, sleet and slightly larger seagulls.  

“Playing different sports gives you different movements,” says Dykes. “Obviously I didn’t go through the academy system as well and it’s just kind of a different outcome going into it, there’s a bit more of a raw look on it when you’re playing and stuff like that.  

“You’ve got players coming out of the academies who are unbelievable in the way they want to play but obviously they’re more set in stone because of the way they’ve been taught at a young age ‘this is what you need to do’ and ‘we want you here’ and certain things but I think players not lucky enough to be in academies, they come with a bit of an edge on them. 

“I definitely think it helped me coming into Queens at not that young of an age. I already had that physical aspect to my game and playing in Scotland in the Championship you needed that.” 

Though he was still skinny, it was obvious from the start at Palmerston that Dykes could mix it in the second tier. But that’s not to say the only way was up. He was an easy target at Queens. All smirks and elbows, the tattooed teen would hare his way down the left-hand side for Queens, right in front of the away fans for half the game, shoulder blades clattering together and soaking up the domestic frustrations of whatever 26-strong mob of zealots had made the trip to Palmerston that weekend. Many youngsters would retreat into their shell, play within themselves. Dykes dyed his hair blond. 

He wasn’t an immediate favourite of the home crowd either. The prodigal son, Stephen Dobbie, had returned to Dumfries after his crusades down south and was the darling of the terraces, scoring for fun and starting calls for a statue to be erected outside the ground (one eventually was, and although I don’t want to have a pop at anyone’s craftsmanship, the end result does suggest that the best material for capturing the likeness of a demi-god may not be a damp lump of wood).     

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While Dobbie reduced keepers up and down the country to mulch, Dykes was assigned to his shadow, tasked with much of the dog work. He had sometimes played centre mid in Australia, and playing both left wing and No.10 during his time at the club, he added a versatility to his game that would only help him become a more effective focal point in later years. He never grudged playing a supporting role. 

“[Gary] Naysmith put me just in behind Dobs and there was just a link-up straight away,” explains Dykes. “We just worked really well together. I was happy to chuck myself about and work hard for the team, that was the role I needed to do and we just had that – it’s something that you can’t really explain – we didn’t work on it, we just had it.  

“Probably going forward even to now I still haven’t found that relationship with someone else better than him. We both knew where we were gonna be on the pitch, we both knew what we needed to do. I worked hard for him and he worked hard scoring goals and that’s just how it was.  

“He’s one of the best finishers still that I’ve played with and watching him in training and in that season, him scoring those goals it does help you to a factor so yeah it was a joy playing with him and y’know hopefully… well obviously he’s not playing anymore but maybe next time I’ll be the one scoring all the goals and he can do all the running.” 

By time he left the south-west, any lingering doubters had been converted. Gary Holt and David Martindale had glimpsed the flinty spirit that had made Dykes into the Championship’s Freddy Krueger, stalking the nightmares of Brechin City full-backs. Livingston secured his services in January 2019 and that summer, ultimate Scottish football magpie Martindale set about polishing him up and adding him to the collection of undervalued trinkets he’d scavenged from elsewhere. Dykes turned out to be a diamond and recognised in the reformed convict a fellow scrapper who’d had to battle for everything he got. They remain fast friends. 

“He was great for me,” says Dykes. “He’s a big character, obviously a lot of people have a lot of things to say about him, but he works very hard.  

“He’s in that building for hours when people don’t see it – he’s the first one in and the last one to leave. He’s achieved amazingly at Livingston. They’ve done great ever since they got back in that top flight and they’ve kind of held their own and they’ve been solid.  

“They definitely put me into the gym more. I would say I was probably in my best shape there as well so I’ve got nothing but praise for Martindale and the whole of his staff.” 

Dykes 2.0 barrelled out of the gym in West Lothian and put together a string of performances that caught attention in England. A dismantling of Christopher Jullien – who later apologised to Celtic fans for being “too nervous” – and a hat-trick against Ross County were among the marquee displays that brought a £2 million offer from QPR, a clamour of Scotland fans calling for Steve Clarke to pick up the phone and Australia manager Rene Meulensteen to the Tony Macaroni Arena to run the rule over the expat. 

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“It was kind of an odd situation because obviously Covid kicked in at the worst time for it but after my goal against Celtic there was talk there and with the run that I was on at Livi it all kind of blew up quite big,” Dykes recalls.  

“Then I had the interest from Australia and then Scotland and it was kind of a crazy moment to think that I could be maybe playing international football coming from where I’ve came from.  

“It was a surreal moment and then Covid hit so I had to just halt on that for a while and hope it didn’t disappear!” 

In the end, as he has a tendency to do, Clarke got what he wanted. 

Just as with Dobbie and Martindale, Dykes saw a kindred spirit in the Scotland manager, and has become one of his most trusted lieutenants in the years since. A week after he made the move to the English Championship, Dykes joined the Scotland ranks for their games against Israel and Czech Republic in the Nations League. 

“When I was at Livingston he called me at my house and we had a good chat about coming to Scotland,” says Dykes. “He just told me it honestly and straight and that’s exactly what I liked. That was one of the main reasons I chose Scotland.  

“I just felt like he’s honest, he’s going to tell me how it is and if I’m not making the cut, if I’m not doing good enough then I’m not going to be there. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t want someone to just blow smoke up my arse and just tell me ‘I think you’re great’. 

“We both know each other and we’re both kind of quiet and I think maybe a bit standoffish with people, a bit… what’s the word… a bit hard to judge sometimes, looking from afar. But once you get to know him he’s great, he’s funny.   

“He’s always got the best interest for me. He’s been a great manager and credit to him for what he’s done with Scotland. He’s changed everything around and we’ve done it all together. So yeah, he’s definitely one to maybe have a beer with when I retire.”  

There have been better footballers, there have been better finishers, but it’s hard to argue Dykes didn’t time his run perfectly given Clarke’s system. A wartime centre-forward after years of tidy but ineffective pacifists up front, his ability to hold the ball up gets the best out of the platoon of midfield generals behind him. McGregor, McTominay, McGinn, Gilmour and Co are all at their best with Dykes leading the line. 

The oft-cited club mentality is easy to discard as a cliché, but Dykes –close friends with Ryan Christie and Stuart Armstrong – insists poker games and WhatsApp groups are more important than you might think. 

“We’re such a close group – I could literally go to anyone and anyone could come to me, anyone could go out for dinner together, it’s as easy as that,” he says. “We’ve got a little poker crew so that’s always a good laugh. We’ve always got the tunes going on there, playing a bit of poker, if someone gets out then we’re singing songs. It’s top.  

“It’s just one of those places where everyone’s your pal and when you’re meeting up you’re just buzzing to get away with them again. I always keep in touch with Ryan and Stu, we’ve got a little chat and they live over my way as well. 

“KT’s on the tunes. He’s always walking around with the boombox around him and he’s blaring music here and there. KT we definitely need him because he’s the soul of the music for the crew. 

(Dykes himself reveals he’s into rap – Big L, Biggie Smalls, Wu Tang Clan,  “old school stuff” – but is rarely trusted with the aux cable) 

“We’ve got a group chat and John McGinn loves to put something funny in there every so often. We’re always speaking and I think that’s probably one of the reasons why we’re so successful, because we are so close. The squad’s probably not changed as much over the years that I’ve been there. Obviously there’s boys in and out here and there but the soul of it has stuck together and we’re all as close as you can be really as far as a football team goes.” 

It's easy to look back now and think it’s all been sweetness and light and goals against Gibraltar, but there were growing pains for Clarke and Scotland. There was a time during the pandemic when it seemed like there were only two options on telly: Boris Johnson shambling his way through whatever restrictions he had to announce on one side and Scotland drawing with Israel on the other. 

Two defeats in 18 games and that night in Serbia shook off the haze in a big way, ending a 23-year absence from major finals, and the build-up to Euro 2020 was electric, but the circumstances and the results made the tournament proper feel like a slight comedown from the bedlam of Belgrade. 

“It was the first one in so many years and it was new to us players, so it was an experience where we were all happy, we wanted to do well, we were buzzing to be there,” says Dykes. “It was amazing to be in and seeing the whole nation going to home games. You could see everyone driving up through the houses, they were just everywhere and it was great to see but yeah, it was in a difficult time, we didn’t have full crowds so that was a negative.  

“There was a lot of travelling, I think we were based at the Rockcliffe so it’s a little bit further out but I think that’s just part and parcel of it. It’s nothing to do with us, it’s just the way it’s run. We were disappointed that the results didn’t go our way but we have to use that now as experience.  

“This one I think’s got a massive hype on it because of our whole campaign going into it. We had a great run. With the Serbia game, it was a last-minute qualification and now we’ve qualified early doors so it’s something to look forward to and I’m sure everyone’s booking everything left, right and centre whereas last time it was a last-minute ditch and we made it.” 

Qualification certainly was a more relaxed affair this time out. Scotland didn’t have to break a sweat on the night as with two games to spare the squad gathered to watch Spain beat Norway in Oslo and secure their passage to Germany. 

“We all watched it in the Blytheswood in our little section of the hotel,” says Dykes. “Funnily enough, we had our little poker table going on, there was maybe eight of us on there. The rest – some of the staff, some of the players – had the TV on and we were watching it in the background.  

“Obviously the result happened and we were all buzzing. I’m pretty sure me and Kenny [McLean] were winning and then obviously we qualified and everyone forgot to pay. That needs to be brought back up actually. Me and Kenny, we’re owed some money.”  

There remains another debt to be collected. The pound of flesh that is taken will likely come with some ink. 

READ MORE: Steve Clarke's most revealing ever interview with Dani Garavelli

After turning down his birth nation (themselves a safe bet for regular journeys to the World Cup) to join a beleaguered Scotland side, rack up almost 40 caps, score nine goals and qualify for back-to-back European Championships, I reckon a straw poll of our bonnie nation would conclude that the boy Dykes has done his bit and then some. Call it quits at that, chief. Anything else is a bonus. 

But he still feels he owes everything to Scotland, the country that gave him a platform to showcase his unique talents on the football pitch after struggling to make the breakthrough in Australia. The country he hopes to return to once all is said and done – “Even though the weather’s terrible, I love all the hills, the greenery, I love the mountains and the countryside of it so I can definitely see me probably back in Scotland, hidden away from everyone and hopefully enjoying just a quiet life.” 

And what better chance to repay that faith once and for all than Germany? Hungary, Switzerland and the hosts lie in wait. After loving the experience of playing against Luka Modric in 2021 – “he ran that show in that game. He’s by far the best I’ve ever played against” - Dykes is already sizing up Real Madrid titan Antonio Rudiger.  

After 25 goals this season, Lawrence Shankland will in amongst the contenders for a spot up front. Dykes remains relaxed about it – “competition is good for everyone” – and would be comfortable if Clarke opted for two up front as well. Unsurprisingly, he’ll chip in anywhere he’s needed.  

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He hasn’t got a new haircut lined up yet – “I’ve been a bit boring recently. Maybe we could start a poll” - but he’s open to ideas. I tell him about the Romania team at the ’98 World Cup who all dyed their hair blond. He seems enthused. 

 “I have tried to mention to everyone that the whole team should just shave our heads,” he says. “We’re definitely not losing if we come out with all baldies, but I don’t think it goes down well with many of them. A lot of them care too much about their hair.”  

Stuart Armstrong? “No chance.”  

Bald or otherwise, this time they’re not there to take part – they’re there to take over. In his first Scotland press conference, Dykes declared he wants go down in history as one of the greats and had sought out the advice of James McFadden on the matter. Is Germany his best chance to do that?  

“One hundred per cent,” he says. “I definitely want to be someone remembered for Scotland, be one of the greats that they have. There’s so many of them and so many even in the team at the moment who I look up to and I want to be those players and match what they’ve done and what they’ve achieved.  

“As in caps, as in how much they’re loved by the fans and obviously the Euros coming up is a major tournament, everyone’s eyes are on us and with all the Scots watching - it’s a time where you can show you can be that guy for everyone and you can be in the history books forever.” 

Mired in a relegation battle at QPR this season, with Shankland breathing down his neck for Scotland and one of Europe’s powerhouses looking to lay down a marker in the opening game, it’s another difficult fight ahead to cement that spot in the hall of fame. The odds are stacked against him. 

Then again, the 17-year-old who was pressing numbers on to the back of jerseys had little hope of one day swapping his with football’s elite. 

He is a big lad. But he plans to get bigger.