Eric Dier: the unique education of England's unlikely hero

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A prophetic picture has been doing the rounds on the internet since Eric Dier's free-kick heroics against Russia. It features a young Dier meeting David Beckham.

Until Saturday, Dier was probably known to some as the less exciting partner in his bromance with Dele Alli. Not so at Tottenham.

He burst onto the scene in north London with a 91st-minute goal against West Ham on the opening day of the 2014/2015 season and has gone on to establish himself at the heart of Mauricio Pochettino's team.


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Dier's uniqueness 

Signing for Spurs as a centre-back Pochettino has since moved him into central midfield, a position he has quickly made his own. Dier's movement with and without the ball is superb, still honing his tackling and intercepting abilities that made him such a promising young defender.

There is plenty of talent in the England squad, but there is something unique about Dier. For a player who has featured just eight times for his country, he looks one of the most comfortable men on the field.

Then again, Dier is used to adapting. That is not just a reference to his change in position, a versatility which makes him one of the first names on Roy Hodgson's ever-changing team sheet.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Dier and the rest of his Three Lions team-mates is that he did not learn his football in England. Growing up in Portugal, his early days were spent with Sporting Lisbon, sandwiching a short stint in the Everton academy.

"Essentially foreign"

In the video below, Alli teases Dier for thinking he's Portuguese, and he's not wrong. Speaking to The Guardian last year, Dier said, quite seriously: 

"Some people forget that I am essentially a foreign player – certainly they did last season. I’m English but, for me, it was like any other foreign player coming to the Premier League for the first time."

It certainly shows. Technically, his passing is very rare for an English player, but that's because he has had a rare education. Comparisons have no doubt been made with Owen Hargreaves, who spent many of his developing years with Bayern Munich in Germany.


It was Sporting who initially tried him in midfield, but the experiment wasn't renewed at Spurs until they failed to sign Victor Wanyama from Southampton, which left them lacking in that area of the pitch.

Growing steadily into the role, he ended the most recent season with a reputation as a bit of a hard man, particularly after the 2-2 draw with Chelsea, a game in which it was remarkable that he stayed on the pitch.

After the Russia game, he looked similarly frustrated (although playing for Spurs and England, this is something he perhaps ought to get used to).

Gareth Bale has accused England of lacking passion, but that cannot be aimed at Dier. If just two things can be highlighted about his game, they are his precision and his hunger.

There is something about Dier that sets him apart from his team-mates. Little wonder, he's already being tipped as a future England captain. 

How important is Eric Dier for England? Have your say in the comments. 

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Gareth Bale
Euro 2016
Tottenham Hotspur
England Football
Premier League

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