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Eric Dier is the rising star of Sporting Lisbon... so why haven't the FA been in touch?
Published : 20 Jan 2011 17:44:55Rss feed
Recognise the tall, blond boy in the back row of England's kit launch photo? Don't worry, you're not alone. His name is Eric Dier, a young centre back rated so highly that Umbro chose him as one of the faces of England's future when they launched their campaign in September. Umbro's next generation: (back row from left) Joe Hart, Adam Johnson, Eric Dier (circled), Jade Bailey (England Ladies U15s), Saido Berahino (England U17s), Tom Cruise (England U19s). Front-row:Jack Wilshere, Fern Whelan (England Ladies), Wayne Rooney, Connor Wickham (England U17s), Theo Walcott Dier plays for Sporting Lisbon's academy in Portugal, due to his parents moving over there when he was seven. He is not bad, either. Despite being just 16, he played for Sporting's Under 19s last season; he has been captain of every junior Sporting side bar the Under 19s since he was 11 and when he signed a professional contract in April Sporting had to fight off interest from Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham. He is so good that the Portuguese want to get him dual nationality as soon as he turns 18. The only problem is that no-one from the FA has ever been in touch with Dier. He must be worth a look. But it seems the FA, as with Mainz winger Lewis Holtby, are so far unaware of Dier's existence. 'I think of myself as a little bit Portuguese but I still consider myself English,' said Dier at Sporting's academy in Alcochete, on the outskirts of Lisbon. 'My dream is to play for England but no-one has ever been in touch about representing them. I don't know if they know about me and maybe it's got something to do with me being abroad. I guess it's hard to come out and watch my games.' One for the future: Dier has been earmarked by Portugal as a future international... but England scouts have not made themselves known to the promising 16-year-old Dier doesn't moan about this at all and is much more understanding than many England fans might be especially if the next couple of years of his career go as planned. 'I played for the Under 19s last season a couple of times and I want to play for them more regularly this year. The aim is to be training with the first team next year and the year after that and to try to break into the first team.' Like so many football crazy boys born in England in the 1990s, Dier grew up wearing Manchester United shirts. He had Cantona on his back, then Solskjaer, later Beckham and dreamed of being a professional footballer. It is no surprise when you look through Dier's family tree his grandfather on his mother's side is Ted Croker, the former FA secretary and Charlton and Kidderminster defender. WHO WAS GRANDAD? Croker played for Charlton and Kidderminster in the 1950s He was secretary of the FA from 1973 to 1989 and proposed the format for the Community ShieldWhen Margaret Thatcher asked what football was going to do about hooligans, Croker said: 'These people are society's problems and we don't want your hooligans in our sport.' Croker died the year before Dier was born but he knows all about his grandfather and football was important as a young boy. 'I remember my dad taking me to watch Brighton during the time when Bobby Zamora played for them and also seeing Tottenham play Manchester United at White Hart Lane. We also had a goal net at the top of our garden in England and I kicked the ball about the whole time.' At that point a career and life in Portugal probably seemed a very unlikely scenario but work took his family out there and he has not been tempted to return. 'My family moved when I was seven because my mother worked on Euro 2004,' recalled Dier. That meant mum Louise, the UK director of an international events and airline catering company, dad Jeremy, a former professional tennis player who now works in sports marketing, and their six children Daisy, Steffi, Eric, Francesca, Edward and Patrick left their home in Sussex. 'When I first moved, we lived in the Algarve where there are a lot of English people. So I didn't really feel much of a difference and I was at an English school. My PE teacher used to work for Sporting and my mother took me along one day when I was eight. After a couple of training sessions they asked me to stay. From eight to 13 we trained on a pitch in the centre of Lisbon and then when I was 14, I moved to the academy. It was then that I switched to a Portuguese school. That's when I properly started to learn Portuguese the coaches started talking to me in English but then they just stopped so I had to learn fast.' Aspirations: Dier, aged 10, meetsDavid Beckham He is fluent now and immersed in Portuguese life, having signed his professional contract. The lure of a return to England would have been hard to resist with big clubs chasing him but, having seen plenty of teenagers fail to progress in those situations, Dier felt better off at Sporting's renowned academy, which produced Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Nani among others. 'It's not that I am not interested in playing for an English club, it's more that I believe the best place for me to progress is at Sporting, where they give a lot of opportunities to young players. Maybe some players lose their heads when they go to big clubs because they think they are a big deal, I'm not sure. 'The other disadvantage is at that age you're not given the same opportunities to play matches as I hopefully will be here. That is why I want to stay at Sporting. But ultimately I want to test myself against the best and the Premier League is where I dream about playing.' Those opportunities mean that if he does come to England one day he should have more experience than most players his age and is likely to be more technically gifted than many of his counterparts. 'I'm not like a traditional English centre back, the kind who kicks people,' joked Dier, who comes across as extremely composed and mature for his age. Then and now: Dier's love of the game started young (left) but reaped rewards, as shown in his training with Sporting Lisbon (right) 'I can do that as well but I can pass it and I'm very comfortable on the ball. In Portugal it's all very technical and that's what they emphasise most. People tell me that I am a leader and very competitive. I'm not the quickest but I've been working on that I have seen a speed specialist, Margot Wells, for the last two summers but I think I read the game well, which compensates a bit. 'I don't really like to compare myself to anyone but I like watching Nemanja Vidic, Ricardo Carvalho and Gerard Pique.' He chips in with his fair share of goals, too a 6ft 2in defender in Portugal, where players are generally shorter than in England, is dangerous from set pieces. Life suits him in Portugal. A day at the academy consists of gym work in the morning, school in the afternoon and training in the evening and he seems to love it. The plan is to move out of the academy and into a flat with some team-mates next year. There's no longer the option of living with his family, who moved back to England at the start of the summer. Even when he one day joins them, he insists he will always keep certain elements of his life in Portugal close to him. 'My Portuguese is pretty good my mum and dad say it is better than my English. I'm bilingual and even if I come back to England one day, I'd like to teach my kids Portuguese.' Such worldliness and open-mindedness have taken Dier far in his first 16 years. You don't doubt that they will continue to do so in his next 16. Lewis Holtby: How did England miss a boy with the Midas touch?England's future: Sir Trevor Brooking tells top clubs...give kids a chance!Martin Keown's insight: Lewis Holtby reminds me of McEachran and Wilshere Explore more:People: Margaret Thatcher, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nemanja Vidic, Bobby Zamora, Nani Places: Lisbon, Portugal, United Kingdom
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