Continuing with my series of scouting young players from around the globe who are talented enough to ply their trades in the lucrative and illustrious Barclays English Premier League, I have come across a teenager who, for some inexplicable reasons, had not attracted the watchful eyes of the English FA until Everton picked him up on loan this January. He is the 16-year old Sporting Lisbon academy product Eric Dier, who is keen to follow in the footsteps of Christiano Ronaldo and Nani who are also the products of the famed Portuguese academy.
What is most interesting about this player is the fact that many in his home nation were hugely surprised when the Daily Mail published an article in January that showcased an Umbro England kit launch photo-shoot which included the 6ft 2ins tall Dier in the background alongside the likes of Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott to name a few.
So who is this strange looking blonde lad that attracted Umbro’s precise marketing attention even before some of the FA’s more accomplished football scouts? Let us have a look at the Cheltenham born Eric Dier who ultimately drew David Moyes’ attention. So it took a Scotsman to bring a forgotten English lad to the shores of King Arthur’s mighty England from the land of the great explorer Vasco da Gama, or is it the land of the magicians by the names of Eusebio, Luis Figo, Rui Costa or for that matter Cristiano Ronaldo! May be the latter names are more applicable compared to Vasco da Gama as this is a football article rather than an adventure write up. Yet, when speaking of the young Dier, his story is nothing short of an adventurous football journey from sleepy Cheltenham to the buzz of the Algarve in Portugal.
Before Everton signed him on a six month loan from Sporting, Eric Dier was quickly acclimatizing himself to a different football culture that exists in the western Iberia compared to that of the British Isles. Yet the young centre-back proved to be a very English type footballer in a very un-English atmosphere which makes him even more deserving to play for the U-17s, U-18s Three Lions teams.
Asked about whether he was a typical English centre-half, Dier said:
“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. ”
2010 turned out to be big year for Eric Dier who, under the guidance of the iconic Paulo Cardoso, became the first Englishman to sign professional terms with the Portuguese club as he regularly turned out for the U-17 Sporting side and also representing the U-19 team occasionally which is a huge benchmark set by him at such a young age and Lisbon are keen to include Eric in the senior squad next season unless David Moyes and Everton have other ideas as reports from the UK suggest that the Toffees could sign the 16-year old defender permanently on a long term deal after he impressed the Merseyside academy and reserve staff.
Born to Jeremy and Louise Dier, Eric and his five siblings moved to Portugal at the age of 8. Mother Louise worked in EURO 2004 as the UK director of an international events and airline catering company, which meant young Dier was very close to the action during the month long football extravaganza. Father Jeremy was a professional tennis player but his grandfather on his mother’s side Ted Croker seems to have inspired the young Manchester United fan to be a footballer. Although the late Ted Croker died before Eric was born, the young man knows everything about his grand dad, the former FA secretary and before that an accomplished Charlton Athletic and Kidderminster defender.
Football was very important in Dier’s life from a very tender age.
England or Portugal?
“I think of myself as a little bit Portuguese but I still consider myself English,” Daily Mail quoted Dier as saying 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.”
With the whole of England now getting an idea of Eric Dier courtesy of his move to Everton, albeit an academy stint until June, there is every chance the FA would involve him in England juniors’ international levels for if not the Portuguese FA are very keen to offer the central defender a dual nationality as soon as the boy turns 18. His exploits have been recognised by the Portuguese national team, who are attempting to select him for a recent U17 international. For Dier though, there is only one international ambition, to attract the attention of the England FA and represent the country of his birth.