This young Englishman made his début in his homeland, a unforgettable one; he started by scoring the winner vs West Ham United away in injury time and continued by scoring another one against Queens Park Rangers at home. This defender turned midfielder for the Capital One Cup, impressed his manager Mauricio Pochettino, by showing his skills and determination against Chelsea and particularly that troublemaker Diego Costa. Furthermore aged only 22, he’s expected to play a key role with England at EURO 16 in France. Completely unknown only two years ago, first choice player for Home and Country, what an adventure !
Eric Dier’s road to fame started not at his hometown Cheltenham Town in Gloucestershire, but in the sunny Portugal, when the seven-year old immigrated with his family . Eric was born at St Paul’s Hospital on January 15, 1994 a year after his maternal’s grandfather death, Edgar Alfred (Ted) Croker, former footballer and secretary at the Football Association. He’s remembered for some angry exchanges with Margaret Thatcher after the Heysel disaster(1985), when the government announced that professional football was at fault for hooliganism:” these people are society’s problem, he said, we don’t want your hooligans in our sport, prime minister !”
Eric’s father Jeremy, was a professional tennisman from Brighton, but when the youngster’s mum got a job for a company that was providing hospitality for the Euro 2004 Finals, the family migrated to Portugal’s capital, Lisbon.
Eric and his siblings studied in St Julian’s school in Lisbon, the same school attended by Kasper Schmeichel, when his father played for Sporting Lisbon. Dier’s football talent was noticed by his PE teacher, who recommended him for a try to Sporting Clube of Portugal,( alias Sporting Lisbon), the same club who helped Christiano Ronaldo to shine. Eric Dier played seven-a-side football at Sporting from the age of eight to thirteen, then in 2-3-1 formation, first on the right of the midfield three, then dropping back to become one of the two defenders. He was a center-half when he started to play with a 11-a-side on dirt pitches that helped him to improve his technique.
The youngster grew up idolising Roy Keane but when he learned that England would be visiting Lisbon during the European Championship, he decided with his siblings to send an invitation to the Football Association, asking them to visit their school and their oldest grass pitch of Portugal.
The FA agreed to sent some dignitaries plus an invitation for the family to watch England train in Lisbon. Happy and proud the little one had his picture taken close to everyone’s idol David Beckham; this was his first taste of international and English football, but it was only the beginning!
However the player’s qualities and talent were nurtured in Portugal, the place where he started his career playing for Sporting, under the watchful “professor” Jesualdo Ferreira the club’s manager, a fiery character very much like Dier’s current boss, Mauricio Potchettino; both of them were looking for young ego-free, hungry and tactically flexible players. Both of them recognised very soon the player’s qualities; efficiency, quick decision making, good passing but most of all a great maturity for someone so young.
As the English FA were not in contact during the player’s teenage years, the Portuguese explored the possibility of the dual nationality, but Dier’s English background wasn’t compatible( not for the grandson of Tom Crocker!). Aged sixteen, after a photo shoot initiated by Umbro, featuring Joe Hart, Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcot and Jack Wilshere, he was picked by England to play with the U18 in 2011.
The culture shock came when the player signed a six- month loan to Premier League’s club, Everton. This was his father’s decision, for Sporting had not a B-team and there was no possibility for the young player to be part of the first team. After all, another boy from Sporting took the same decision: add some English steel to the Portugese “savoir-faire”; Ronaldo was his name !
These six months in Merseyside were a nightmare, remembers the Portuguese raised: “If I am completely honest, I absolutely… I didn’t hate it but, at the time, I just thought:”Get me out of here!” You can never get a bigger kick up in the backside than there, for someone who’s coming from Portugal! The lifestyle, the weather, the physicality… even the language was a factor. And in football terms, it was a lot more aggressive.”
Everton, offered another 12 months deal and the player accepted it, but still thinks that people don’t realise that he’s a foreign player; English by birth, but for him the feeling was the same like any other foreign player, coming to Premier League for the first time.
Two years later, his signing to Tottenham’s Spurs, made him the leading protagonist of Club and Country; Pochettino and Hodgson rely upon him to provide an attack from his position at the base of the midfield. Busquets (Barça) anyone ? His Spurs teammate,Dele Alli, revealed that in private he’s called “Becks” from his English mates.
The future seems bright for the Gloucester born; he’s young, talented and a nice guy; WHAT ELSE ?